Suffer the Children Unto Me: An Open Inquiry into the Clerical Abuse Scandal

By Jones, Frederick | British Journal of Canadian Studies, July 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

Suffer the Children Unto Me: An Open Inquiry into the Clerical Abuse Scandal


Jones, Frederick, British Journal of Canadian Studies


Michael W. Higgins and Peter Kavanagh, Suffer the Children Unto Me: An Open Inquiry into the Clerical Abuse Scandal (Toronto: Novalis, 2010), 256 pp. Paper. $21.95. ISBN 978-2- 89646-233-9.

Richard Dawkins is quoted here as wondering whether the Catholic Church 'has been unfairly demonised over the issue' of child abuse (p. 141). Indeed, those who know the website Honest Reporting Canada, which examines how the media selectively and sensationally report on that other favourite target of fashionable opinion, the State of Israel, may indeed wonder whether the Catholic Church has been treated in a similar fashion in this case as a convenient scapegoat. Certainly one victim of child abuse anywhere is too many but, for the vulnerable young, perhaps more dangerous places than churches are orphanages, schools, youth organisations and especially dysfunctional homes.

The authors, both eminent Catholics, with backgrounds respectively in journalism and scholarship, have tried to present a balanced account, which, while making it clear that media sensationalism has been overdone, also condemns wholeheartedly any attempts at cover up by ecclesiastical authorities. They tell a sad story, largely one of young boys abused by predatory clerics or lay brothers. The Mount Carmel Orphanage in St John's Newfoundland was in 1989 revealed as the site of systematic and constant abuse of young boys by the Irish Christian Brothers over many years. Since then other scandals have erupted in connection with the residential schools and the supposed sex abuse ring in Cornwall, Ontario. The latest case has been that of Bishop Raymond Lahey, a notable Newfoundland historian, who pleaded guilty to having child pornography on his computer. …

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