Systemic_Practice_in_a_Complex_System._Child_Sexual_Abuse_and_the_Catholic_Church.doc

In the somewhat popular paradigm of paedophilia the

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cannot ever be good. In the somewhat popular paradigm of paedophilia, the sexual offender is simply regarded as sick and cannot ever recover from his condition. Reductionist models of explanation and intervention are en vogue . In the rush to condemn, some things get noticed but even more gets missed. The stage is set for extremes of hate. In the world of good versus evil, the good are allowed the occasional mistake, but “the essentially evil” deserve no consideration whatsoever. In the current climate, Catholic clergy who have perpetrated sexual abuse against minors are largely seen and treated as a cast of unreformable men. They have almost become “untouchables,” total outcasts. Members of the church hierarchy who are accused of “cover-up” are also seen as beyond redemption. For me the unhelpful dichotomies and dangers that arise from identifying and totalizing the identity of any individual had to be addressed in the therapeutic rooms and in my input into public discourse. Against the prevailing popular perception, I maintained that victims of abuse do not constitute a homogenous group, and neither do the abuse perpetrators. 14
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Rather than enforcing what Tocqueville has called the tyranny of the majority, I argued that we would do better by remembering that what really matters is the subjective experience. If the latter assumption holds true, this means also that there must be room for all in their different manifestations and experiences. By casting “victims” and “perpetrators” as homogenized groups, each with identifiable symptoms and absolute and unchangeable identities, further social injustices were likely to occur, this time couched in the language of social justice or therapeutic work. The therapeutic aim of my work with offenders was to put all children beyond risk (Lang, 2003) and to help the men in therapy to live non- abusive lives. I also wanted to offer a systemic ear to individuals who consulted with me so that the experiences of all could be held and honoured in the interest of healing, collective restoration, and transformation. The therapy involved individual, group, and family therapy modalities, as well as accountability meetings, workshops on specific topics, and self-help groups for families. For the men who had perpetrated sexual abuse, weekly group therapy sessions of five hours, supplemented by weekly or fortnightly individual counselling sessions, formed the core of the treatment program. Accountability meetings involved the offender, significant people in his social and professional network, and key treatment staff, and took place at regular intervals. In the case of the Catholic clergy who attended for therapy, these meetings involved the cleric’s bishop or his immediate superior and other church personnel. Members of the cleric’s family of origin were also offered help and support. The family support group for the families of all of the men 15
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attending the treatment centre met on a monthly basis and consisted of
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