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Church in Crisis: Historical Context and Personal Analysis: Books & Dissertations

In support of USD's Church in Crisis site, this guide provides resources for further study.

Breaking the Silence

Brian Clites, “Breaking the Silence: The Catholic Sexual Abuse Survivor Movement in Chicago, 1943-2002” (Ph.D. diss, Northwestern University, 2015).

Available through the Proquest Dissertations and Theses Global Database here.

Child Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church

Marie Keenan, Child Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church: Gender, Power, and Organizational Culture (Oxford University Press, 2013).

  • Keenan is an Irish psychotherapist who has worked with both survivors and perpetrators of clerical sexual abuse.
  • Publisher says: “Linking the personal and the institutional, researcher and therapist Marie Keenan locates the problem of child sexual abuse not exclusively in individual pathology, but also within larger systemic factors, such as the very institution of priesthood itself, the Catholic take on sexuality, clerical culture, power relations, governance structures of the Catholic Church, the process of formation for priesthood and religious life, and the complex manner in which these factors coalesce to create serious institutional risks for boundary violations, including child sexual abuse. Keenan draws on the priests’ own words not to excuse their horrific crimes, but to offer the first in-depth account of a tragic, multi-faceted phenomenon.”

Pedophiles and Priests

Philip Jenkins, Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis (Oxford, 2001).

  • Publisher says: “From the first rumblings to today’s headlines, Philip Jenkins has written a fascinating, exhaustive, and, above all, even-handed account that not only puts this particular crisis in perspective, but offers an eye-opening look at the way in which an issue takes hold of the popular imagination.”

The Silence of Sodom

Mark Jordan, The Silence of Sodom: Homosexuality in Modern Catholicism (University of Chicago Press, 2000).

  • Publisher says: “The past decade has seen homosexual scandals in the Catholic Church becoming ever more visible, and the Vatican’s directives on homosexuality becoming ever more forceful, begging the question Mark Jordan tries to answer here: how can the Catholic Church be at once so homophobic and so homoerotic? His analysis is a keen and readable study of the tangled relationship between male homosexuality and modern Catholicism.”

The Clergy Sex Abuse Crisis and the Legal Responses

James T. O’Reilly and Margaret S.P. Chalmers, The Clergy Sex Abuse Crisis and the Legal Responses (Oxford University Press, 2014).

  • By two lawyers/canon lawyers.
  • Publisher says: “Clear explanation of the Catholic Church abuse scandal in the U.S.; probes how church law protects bishops from accountability; deals directly with “repressed memory” incidents and belated crime reporting; places blame for priests’ improper behavior on failings of church accountability processes; considers reforms and best practices to be applied in the light of the scandal”

History and Presence

Robert Orsi, History and Presence (Harvard University Press, 2016)

See especially Chapter 7, “Events of Abundant Evil.”

Sacred Silence

Donald Cozzens, Sacred Silence: Denial and Crisis in the Church (Liturgical Press, 2002).

  • Written by priest, psychologist, and seminary rector
  • Publisher says: “Explains how the misplaced loyalties of those in leadership positions created the current crisis. Cozzens clarifies why bishops and church authorities think the way they do and why the ecclesiastical system might be the real villain in the abuse scandal.”

Keep the Faith, Change the Church

James E. Muller and Charles Kenney, Keep the Faith, Change the Church: The Battle by Catholics for the Soul of Their Faith (Rodale Books, 2004).

  • Muller is the founding president of Voice of the Faithful. This book is a personal narrative of VotF’s founding and is a great example of a book by a survivor-advocate — good for self-education and excerpting for undergrads.

Telling Truths in Church

Mark Jordan, Telling Truths in Church: Scandal, Flesh, and Christian Speech (Beacon, 2003).

  • Publisher says: "The subtle and passionate meditations that make up Telling Truths in Church are thus both a response to the scandals and an attempt to think beyond them to a more comprehensive understanding of what they might mean—for Catholicism in particular, but more broadly for all the Christian churches. In five chapters, Jordan writes of speaking of secrets about sex and about same-sex love; the telling of truth to and about God; and acknowledging our feelings about God’s flesh. He also considers forms for suppressing and for offering truths, and the way language may reveal or hide them."

Faithful Revolution

Tricia Bruce, Faithful Revolution: How Voice of the Faithful is Changing the Church (Oxford University Press, 2011).

  • Publisher says: “In January 2002, reeling from a growing awareness of child sexual abuse within their church, a small group of Catholics gathered after Mass in the basement of a parish in Wellesley, Massachusetts to mourn and react. They began to mobilize around supporting victims of abuse, supporting non-abusive priests, and advocating for structural change in the Catholic Church so that abuse would no longer occur. Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) built a movement by harnessing the faith and fury of a nation of Catholics shocked by reports of abuse and institutional complicity. Tricia Colleen Bruce offers an in-depth look at the development of Voice of the Faithful, showing their struggle to challenge Church leaders and advocate for internal change while being accepted as legitimately Catholic. Guided by the stories of individual participants, Faithful Revolution brings to light the intense identity negotiations that accompany a challenge to one’s own religion and offers a meaningful way to learn about Catholic identity, intrainstitutional social movements, and the complexity of institutional structures.”

In the Name of All That's Holy

Anson D. Shupe, In the Name of All That’s Holy: A Theory of Clergy Malfeasance (Praeger, 1995).

  • Publisher says: Anson Shupe is a sociologist who has studied extensively the problem of clergy (priests, ministers, rabbis, gurus) who take advantage sexually or financially of members of their churches and groups―from televangelists like Jim Bakker or Robert Tilton to the infamous Father James Porter who sexually molested at least 200 children. Shupe’s focus is not on the psychological motives of these miscreants, but rather on the reaction to their actions by the perpetrators themselves, by the organizations, and by the victims.