Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Tom Doyle in Robert Blair Kaiser's Whistle: "Survivors Have Changed the Course of Catholic History. They Have Accelerated the Paradigm Shift of the Church"

I don't want to wear you out with excerpts from Robert Blair Kaiser's book about Tom Doyle, Whistle. I do encourage you to consider buying it, because the proceeds from sale of the book go to groups like SNAP who are doing the important work of assisting survivors of religious sexual abuse. I encourage you to buy the book and read it for that reason, and also because it provides a good overview of the way the abuse crisis has unfolded in the Catholic church — though, as I tell Jerry in a remark here today, I do have my own strong reservations about how Kaiser treats the issue of homosexuality. I hinted at some of those last summer when I wrote a review of Kaiser's book about Pope Francis and the Jesuits.

I may say more about this down the road. My tendency is never to undercut solidarity with people and groups that deserve my solidarity. And so I am concerned not to criticize too harshly a book whose proceeds go to abuse survivors, since I am determined to stand in solidarity with survivors.

On the other hand, I have long seen it as my responsibility as a theologian to seek and try to speak the truth in season and out of season, and there's a very important conversation that needs to be continued within the Catholic community about the easy, glib way in which gay priests were immediately scapegoated by Catholic leaders when the abuse crisis broke wide open in 2002 — a diversionary scapegoating technique designed to deflect attention from their own horrific handling of the situation. And further discussion needs to take place about the way in which that diversionary meme has been popularized in the media, including the "liberal" Catholic media, and even in some segments of the community of survivors.

Meanwhile, here's another passage that catches my eye in Tom Doyle's introductory essay in the book, which is entitled "To the True Heroes — The Survivors":

This pope's overtures to victims are grounded on three decades of courageous efforts by survivors. Without these efforts nothing would have changed. Survivors have changed the course of Catholic history. They have accelerated the paradigm shift of the Church of the past to the Church of today. If this Church is to be known not as a gilded monarchy of increasing irrelevance but as the People of God, the change in direction hinted at by the pope's words and actions are crucial, and if he does lead the way to a new image of the Body of Christ, it will be due in great part because the survivors have led the way for him.
~ Tom Doyle,  in Robert Blair Kaiser, Whistle: Tom Doyle's Steadfast Witness for Victims of Clerical Sexual Abuse (Thiensville, WI: Caritas, 2015) (p. iv).

And that, of course, puts me in mind of Australian bishop Geoffrey Robinson's insistence in his book Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus (Dublin: Columba, 2007), "If a better church one day emerges from this crisis, it is they alone who must take the credit for creating it" (p. 225). Robinson's book continues to deserve attention because as early as 2007 he was making the very important point that the concept of forgiveness should not be used to silence and disempower abuse survivors, and that there's such a thing as forgiveness given too early (pp. 219-225).

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