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Sin, salvation and the sex abuse scandal

Jim Corkery is a Jesuit theologian who teaches in the Gregorian University in Rome. He also assists in the Centre for the Protection of Minors there, working at times with Hans Zollner SJ, a psychologist and leading expert on child sexual abuse.

In this interview with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications, he reflects on the recent summit on Child Protection convened in Rome by Pope Francis, 21 –24 February. Whilst welcoming the meeting he says that the problem of clerical sexual abuse cannot be fixed by the Church authorities alone in Rome. “If bishops and priests have been the problem, they can’t be the only part of the solution,” he says. The voices of many people, most especially the survivors of abuse, must be heard, and they must be allowed to play a central role in finding a lasting solution to the crisis, according to Dr Corkery.

Speaking as a theologian reflecting on the sexual abuse scandals in the Church, he says a new understanding of Church must be created, along with a new theology.

He outlines his own work of trying to develop a theology that addresses adequately this crisis for the Church as the people of God. He argues that there needs to be a re-examination of the theology of salvation, in the light of the experience of survivors of abuse who did not sin but were sinned against, in this area. He says we need to listen to survivors, learn from them, and evaluate our understanding of power, sin and grace, in the light of what they tell us.