The politics of meaning

Societal discourses on sexual abuse of children and their influence on the Catholic Church


This chapter on child sexual abuse contributes to an understanding of the shift from a focus on perpetrators that denies the voice of the victims, even holding the victims to be sexual delin-quents responsible for their abuse, to a “victims first” approach. The Catholic Church has been heavily influenced by the major discourses in society that give power to psychiatrists, therapists and social workers. However, with regard to clerical sexual abuse in the Church, two distinct discourses can be identified. In the first, sin is considered a cause for abuse, reducing it to a mat-ter of the will. The second discourse restricts child sexual abuse to the North American context, suggesting that moral decay has contaminated the clergy in that region.