Beyond BetrayalThe Priest Sex Abuse Crisis, the Voice of the Faithful, and the Process of Collective Identity

Beyond BetrayalThe Priest Sex Abuse Crisis, the Voice of the Faithful, and the Process of Collective Identity

Patricia Ewick and Marc W. Steinberg

Print publication date: 2020

ISBN: 9780226644127

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

On January 6, 2002 the Boston Globe published a reports on the Catholic Church cover up of sexual abuse by priests. The banner headline told a tragic story that would, in its basic plot, be repeated with disturbing regularity over the course of the next decade. As a result of these revelations many Catholics would leave the Church; many would remain staunchly faithful. Some Catholics would decide to keep their faith, but also to change the Church. Based on years of ethnographic research, Ewick and Steinberg studied one group of such Catholics—a chapter of Voice of the Faithful. In standing up to the Church, their project parallels that of many change seekers whose efforts face obstacles by the economic and cultural resources and organizational power they seek to change. In the case of the Church crisis, expectations of obedience, deference to hierarchy, and presumption of ecclesiastic immunity collided with individual conscience, liberty and democracy. Caught between their loyalty to the Church and their sense of justice, these Catholics reimagined the Church and their role in it. Over more than a decade they engaged in an ongoing process of collective identity through which they reimagined their place within the institutional order and the meaning of being faithful Catholics. Theirs is an all-too-familiar story about identities under stress and their reconfiguration as collective challengers; about institutional betrayal and the restoration of trust; and, about commitment and the meaning of justice.