My forthcoming book on clerical sexual abuse in the Catholic Church

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Responding to the “signs of the times” of providing a sociological explanation concerning the structural roots of the persistent clerical sexual abuse by priests and bishops in the Catholic Church, I wrote a sociological book entitled “Sociological Perspectives on the Clerical Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Hierarchy: An Exploratory Structural Analysis of a Social Disorganization.” It is now approved by Springer Nature to be published as an academic and trade book and will be available worldwide soon. The approved manuscript will be forwarded to production division and will probably be published 4 to 6 weeks thereafter (probably this July or August 2019) as a Springer Brief in the Religious Studies Series in ebook and hardbound versions at Springer.com.

Book Title with Tentative Cover

cover2

The Book’s Abstract:

This book, as an exploratory sociological analysis, broadly examines the major structural factors that contribute to the social disorganization of the Catholic hierarchy as a clerical community, facilitating the persistence of clerical sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Primarily utilizing some major tenets of the social disorganization theory on crime as the overall theoretical framework, supplemented by some theoretical insights from social organization, social network, and social capital perspectives, and some secondary literature and qualitative data to support its arguments, it examines the (1) diocesan clergy’s social interaction, mutual support, and social control system in the hierarchical community, (2) connection between mandated clerical celibacy and clerical sexual abuse, and (3) the implication of the laity’s lack of authority to monitor clerical behavior. The Catholic hierarchy prides itself as a unified community of clerics under the Pope who shares the one priesthood of Christ. But the current clerical sexual scandals and the inability of bishops to adequately manage clerical abuse cases make one wonders whether the Catholic clergy is indeed a cohesive and socially organized community which inhibits clerical sexual abuse. This book invites Church authorities, theologians, scholars, and lay leaders to understand the persistent clerical sexual abuse empirically and to come up with structural reforms that enhance the social network and social control systems of the Church that truly address the problem and support victims.

Keywords: Catholic Church, Catholic Hierarchy, Social Disorganization Theory, Social Control, Clerical Abuse, Catholic Laity.

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Excerpts from the anonymous manuscript blind reviewers about the book:

Reviewer #1:

  1. Does this manuscript make an original contribution to the field? If so, in what ways? If not, why not?

“The author was able to argue persuasively that a sociological treatment of clerical sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is needed to supplement existing studies that veer toward psychological and clinical perspectives. The author invokes social factors (structural and institutional) in explaining the high incidence of sexual abuse of minors in the Catholic Church. In this regard, the author contributes to existing knowledge and argues some new assertions about the relationship between structural factors of contemporary Catholicism and clerical sexual abuse.”

  1. What are the strongest aspects of the work or author’s view?

“The manuscript’s strongest contribution rests on two assertions: (1) that sexual abuse is a deviant act in the sociological sense, and (2) that the preponderance of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is rooted in its organizational and structural properties. The second point is specifically salient because it runs counter to prevalent notions (sometimes promoted by media reports) that the Catholic Church is a monolithic and rigid institution. Quite the contrary, the Catholic Church is actually becoming a “loose” organization because of the lack of regulation on many levels of exercising authority and the lack of participation of lay members (which comprise 99% of church membership).

I think there is potential for this book to spark interest beyond academic circles. Because of the wide interest people have in recent cases of clerical sexual abuse, this book can have wider use among non-experts who would want fresh perspectives on the matter. Most of the literature on clerical sexual abuse are religious (doctrinal, canonical, theological) or psychological (counseling, pathology, psychiatric). This book engages with existing perspectives but offers sociological perspectives as a new approach to the issue. This can be picked up by those who are looking for potential in frameworks other than the established ones.”

Reviewer #2:

  1. Does this manuscript make an original contribution to the field? If so, in what ways? If not, why not?

The strength of the manuscript lies in its ambition. It aims to explain the failure of the Catholic Church to account for the sexual abuses committed by its clergy using a sociological perspective. Specifically, using social disorganization theory, the manuscript spells out the different facets of the Catholic hierarchy around the world and its (weak) response to allegations. The coverage is global, relying primarily on the literature and some qualitative work the author has done in the Philippines. The author contributes to the literature, which is dominated by psychological studies. The author notes that the ‘persistence of clerical sexual abuse in the Catholic hierarchy reveals something that is beyond psychological and psychiatric problems of the clergy’ (p. 92).

  1. What are the strongest aspects of the work or author’s view?

The sociological perspective is clear throughout the manuscript. The consistency is notable even when the author discusses some Church documents. More importantly, this perspective underpins the argument that sexual abuse is a main problem in the Catholic Church because of ‘social disorganization’. The author draws from the sociology of deviance to explain how the absence of effective social control mechanisms throughout the hierarchy makes it possible for sexual abuses to take place. In chapter 3, the author spells out how this is indeed the case: the limited supervisory powers of the Roman Curia, the discretionary powers of the bishops, and the absence of judicial and clerical monitoring systems. The book ends by once again drawing on the sociological perspective to offer important ways forward for the Catholic Church. In fact, the author takes on the critical view that ‘Vatican II and the current Church’s view on lay empowerment is only an enlargement of their participation in the apostolic affairs of the Church but not in the ecclesiastical or internal management of the Church’ (p. 88).

The Book Contract:

Contract Sexual Abuse

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