Spaces of untouchability : investigating the space between Catholic sexual ethics and the Catholic sexual abuse crisis
May 20, 2020
Department or Program
This thesis examines the historical, theological, and social factors that have contributed to the sexual abuse crisis within the Catholic Church in the latter half of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century. The author asserts that a combination of these factors, in addition to, namely, a rejection and denial of sex and sexuality as abstract concepts, has allowed space for the preponderance and cover-up of sexual abuse occurring in the Catholic Church. Utilizing a synthesis of official Church doctrine, individual testimony, and public response through an empowering and inclusive lens, the author illustrates how the untouchability of the realm of sexuality has perpetuated repression of sexuality and sexual acts. Additionally, the historical analysis of the practice and theology of celibacy and the clerical state provide context for how historical theology pertains to modern religion and the daily lives of the religious. The ultimate aim of this work is to challenge commonly held perspectives regarding the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, especially those that incite further blame and shame upon victims, as well as rejection of the entirety of religion. Religions, like all systems of social organization, are historically situated, and equally subject to oppressive hierarchies, abuses of power, and rejection of the unknown. In approaching such systems with compassion, rather than accusation, religious scholars, theologians, sociologists, queer theorists, and emerging fields of inclusive study will be able to explore the obscured elements of those systems with more awareness for their own biases, and, ideally, illuminate the unknowable and reveal the untouchable.