Review: Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes: The Catholic Church’s 2,000 Year Paper Trail of Sexual Abuse

Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes: The Catholic Church's 2,000 Year Paper Trail of Sexual AbuseSex, Priests, and Secret Codes: The Catholic Church’s 2,000 Year Paper Trail of Sexual Abuse by Thomas P. Doyle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was made aware of this book following a radio interview with one of the authors in the aftermath of his testimony to Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse. Having acquired the book, it took a while for the book to work its way to the top of my ‘to read’ list. The timing of that eventuality, after the Final Report of the Royal Commission has been made public, is largely simply a matter of fortuitous timing.

I want to mention, at the very beginning, that the primary reason that the book received only three stars from me has nothing to do with the subject matter. It has everything to do with what I consider two faults with the book: firstly, there were a significant number of editorial errors (incomplete sentences, misspellings, etc) that were profoundly distracting as I made my way through the book; secondly, there were significant amounts of repetition of text and facts throughout the book, repetitions that were unnecessary and distracting. They are the only reasons why an otherwise present fourth star is missing.

The context of this book, and the subject matter of this book, is profoundly disturbing. The abuse of children and vulnerable adults is a heinous crime as various investigations and inquiries around the world have shown. That this takes place in the context of the Church only makes the heinous nature of the crime that much worse. As the book points out, however, is that this is not something ‘new’ in the life of the Church, and has, in one form or another, been present from the beginning – as evidenced by the very fact that the Church has internal laws (canons, etc) that address the issue, and has had for some time.

The greatest crime then, perhaps, is that these internal laws and processes have not been implemented when it has been necessary to do so,, and that other considerations – less worthy considerations – have been allowed to take priority over the protection of those rightfully deserving of protection, and over the pursuit of justice (which does not mean that charity or mercy is eliminated).

This book is profoundly disturbing to anyone who, despite the revelations of the recent decades, continues to love the Church as the People of God. As a public minister of that Church I am outraged at the actions of some with whom I share ordained ministry in one form or another, and cannot begin to fathom why those who should be protected were ignored for reasons that seem contrary to the very Gospel the Church is called to proclaim.

I can only pray that the future will be different than the past, and commit myself to playing whatever part I can in making that prayer a reality.

View all my reviews

Share This Story:

Article by Andrew Doohan

Leave a Reply