Since 2002, Catholics have been hit with the sexual abuse crisis in the Church. First it was uncovered in the United States, then revelations of abuse and cover-ups spread to other countries, reaching a crescendo this past Spring with many media outlets trying to tag Pope Benedict with accusations of misconduct. One of the problems with this slow drip, drip of sordid revelations is that it is hard to get a “big picture” perspective of the problem and the Church’s response to it. Instead, it just appears as if nothing is changing and nothing is being addressed. News story after news story just seem to repeat the same allegations over and over.
Because of this, Greg Erlandson and Matthew Bunson have done Catholics a great service by writing the book “Pope Benedict XVI and the Sexual Abuse Crisis” (full disclosure: Erlandson is the President and Publisher of Our Sunday Visitor, which is publishing my book this Fall). In this book, the authors do two things: recount the details of the crisis and note what the Church – and particularly Pope Benedict – has done to respond to it. They are not afraid to criticize church officials when they need to be criticized, but they also note the leading role Pope Benedict has taken to rid the Church of sexual predators, dating back to his days as a Cardinal.
This book is split into two parts: the first is the analysis of Erlandson and Bunson, and then the second part includes a large number of official writings and documents from the Pope and other church officials related to the crisis. This second section serves the same purpose as the first: to gather together in one place a “big picture” of what church officials have been doing since 2002 to address abuse within the Church.
I do wish that the book addressed critically the results of some of the U.S. bishops’ actions since 2002 to protect children. There seems to be no question that predator priests are becoming more and more rare because of the bishops’ actions since 2002, but there is legitimate concern that some of the actions taken (such as mandatory and possibly inappropriate “Safe Environment” training in Catholic schools) can have long-term negative consequences. But frankly, that is not really a criticism of this book, as that was not a topic Erlandson and Bunson were covering. I do hope someday that someone does study those issues and writes a comprehensive book about it.
However, if you want to get a great overview of the abuse crisis in the Church and the Church’s – and Pope’s – response to it, I would recommend buying a copy of Pope Benedict XVI and the Sexual Abuse Crisis. And for those particularly interested in this topic, OSV has set up a blog associated with this book and the issues surrounding it.