Professor Gill Goulding: Abuse and Mercy
Professor Gill Goulding CJ is Professor of Systematic Theology at Regis College in the University of Toronto. She speaks with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications about her recent reflections and writings as a theologian on the important topic of clerical sexual abuse of children in the Catholic church.
Professor Goulding says she was struck by the absence of any consistent theological reflection in the reports into clerical child sexual abuse from the Bishop’ Conferences. This was a serious lack she felt and so in consultation with survivors/victims of abuse, she set about her theological reflections.
She says we must start by noting unequivocally that the abuse of an innocent child or vulnerable adult -‘holy people’ as she calls them – is a ‘profanation’, and “abuse of Christ himself.” The depth of the suffering inflicted by such abuse must be understood and acknowledged by the whole Church, all its members, and not just the bishops and priests. She says all church people need to listen and hear victims speak from that place of depth before they can begin to respond and move forward in any meaningful way.
Professor Goulding also cites the many gospel references to Jesus’ love and defense of children and vulnerable people which, she notes, was completely counter-cultural at this time. And she points up His warning, ” Woe to anyone who offends one of these little ones for it were better for him that a millstone be hung around his neck and he be cast into the depths”.
She also speaks to a theology of a ‘vulnerable God’, as opposed to the ‘all-powerful or victorious God’ which for too long has been a dominant motif in theological reflection.