Review: Reckoning: The Catholic Church and Child Sexual Abuse

Reckoning: The Catholic Church and Child Sexual Abuse by Chris Gillion
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book, by Chris McGillion and Damian Grace, is a chilling – even brutally – honest account of the response of the Catholic Church in Australia to the issue of Child Sexual Abuse. It outlines, clearly and cogently, that response from the very beginning of the public awareness of the issue up to, and including, the Royal Commission established to investigate institutional responses to this devastating crime.

While being rightfully critical of the Church and its response to this issue, the book is also not completely unsympathetic to the plight faced by the Church and its leadership. It readily gives credit where credit is due to those developments within the life of the Australian Church that have been positive in combatting the scourge of child sexual abuse. McGillion and Grace also roundly and justifiably criticise those elements of the media and Church critics who have either misrepresented facts and reality, or omitted to report on positive progress, or who have attached other agenda for Church reform to the outcry against the Church and its response to child sexual abuse.

Anyone within the Church – or indeed outside the Church – who wants a very well presented, well researched, and approachable history of the Australian Church’s response to the scourge of child sexual abuse would do well to read this short but powerful book.

From the back cover:

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has focused more public attention on the Catholic Church in Australia than on any other organisation subject to this investigation. It is a cathartic moment for the Church. Public disillusionment and a deep distrust within the community about the way the Church has handled clerical sexual abuse cases could prove more damaging – or more transformative – than any findings from the Commission itself.

This book examines the public discussion around the child abuse issue and its construction as a problem of Catholicism. It considers what the Australian Catholic response to the greatest crisis in its history will mean in the long term for:

– the Australian Church’s credibility,
– the reputation of its schools, hospitals and welfare organizations,
– and for its future cultural and political influence.

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