The Church, The Commission and the Truth: Inside the NSW Special Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse
Keywords:Child sexual abuse, clericalism, Catholic Church, gender, ethnography.
AbstractThe NSW Special Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in the Newcastle-Maitland diocese, an area north of Sydney, Australia, held proceedings during 2013. The Special Inquiry investigated allegations made by police whistleblower Peter Fox that the Newcastle police and the Catholic Church colluded to keep criminal sexual activity against children by two Catholic priests from being properly investigated. This article reports on sections of the court hearings dealing with the Catholic Church, and relates these to sociological theories of gender, religion and power. In particular, the article will position gender analysis, via the social construction of clerical masculinity, as a central hermeneutic for understanding the culture of sexual violence which has plagued the Catholic Church in this region, and more broadly, for decades. This analysis uncovers a culture of elitist male clericalism, practices of institutional secrecy, the poor psychosexual development of priests and an exclusivist patriarchal construction of the sacred as key elements in church culture. The article makes a contribution to two areas of inquiry that are under-researched in the child sexual abuse literature: the role of gender and the culture of priesthood.
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