It would seem to be the ultimate in bad taste to look for a silver lining in the dark cloud of the Roman Catholic Church sexual-abuse crisis. To do so would be, in the minds of many, to minimize the damage done to countless children and teenagers who were betrayed by the “holy people” they trusted.
But for some of the scholars meeting this weekend at McGill University in Montreal, the abuse scandal offers something more than just despair: It is a chance for a broader society plagued with child sexual abuse to learn from the mistakes of the Church and the solutions it found to try to end the abuse.
Dan Cere, a professor of religion, law and ethics at McGill, and one of the organizers of the conference, said the Church crisis now stands as a “case study” that secular society should pay careful attention to. No other institution, he said, has produced as many reports and done as much analysis on the problem of abuse.
The conference, called “Trauma and Transformation: The Catholic Church and the Sexual Abuse Crisis,” will see 20 presenters take stock of what the Church has done to date to confront the crisis, how effective those measures have been and what more is needed.
“The Catholic Church has been the main focus of media and public attention, and there has been more study on abuse in the Catholic Church than on any other institution in society,” said Prof. Cere. “But if you stopped every clerical abuser tomorrow, the vast majority of kids in the world will still be abused by other people. The clerical abuse issue is a small part of a much larger global problem."