The Royal Commission Investigates Child Sexual Abuse: Uncovering Cultures of Sexual Violence in the Catholic Church
In this chapter, Kathleen McPhillips explores institutional contributions to cultures of sexual violence; particularly through the work of the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (2013–2017), which investigated sexual violence perpetrated against children across different institutions. The Commission’s findings paint a disquieting picture of the failure of many institutions to protect children from abuse. They also reveal that faith-based organizations have had the worst track record in child safety; in particular, the Catholic Church recorded the highest levels of child abuse of any organization under investigation. This speaks to a documented failure on the part of Church leaders and administrators to protect children, despite knowing that they were in danger. McPhillips explores the central reasons why sexual violence against children has been so widespread in Catholic organizations, considering the features of institutional religious settings that appear to render the sexual abuse of children such a ubiquitous occurrence. Specifically, she examines the Royal Commission’s public hearings on abuses perpetrated within institutions run by the Marist Brothers, a male teaching order of Catholic celibate men. McPhillips investigates the particular role that its institutional framework and cultures of masculinity played in producing a culture of abuse.
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