The Role of theology and organizational structure in addressing clergy sexual abuse

26 August 2019

Georgetown's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs promotes scholarship and dialogue at the intersection of religion, law, ethics, and world affairs and the Center's Berkley Forum offers an online space for rigorous debate on critical issues of the day.

In it's most recent discussion series, the Berkley Forum has invited experts to contribute to the debate on theological organisations and sexual abuse, posing the question: 

How have the distinct theologies and organizational models of the Southern Baptist Convention and Catholic Church impacted the way that these religious bodies have dealt with sexual abuse?

This topic invites the reader to explores key questions such as: Do religious authorities in positions of power have the duty to address tenets of their theology that may contribute to sexual abuse? How might the perspectives of lay Christians on these issues differ from those in clergy roles? When theological stances have implications for the well-being of the wider society, what role do those outside faith communities play in evaluating the benefit or harm of particular beliefs? Does national context impact the way religious institutions respond to allegations of abuse?

UQ Law's Professor Patrick Parkinson was among the contributor's to this series, writing on Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: The Australian Experience.

Perhaps these perpetrators and their religious leaders did not understand that God sees everything done in secret and calls all of us to account. As the Royal Commission showed, what is said behind closed doors may be proclaimed from the housetops.

The child sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church does represent a theological failure; but more than anything else it has been a failure to understand the God these Catholic leaders were called to serve.

Read his full article here and all contributions to this week's Berkley Forum here