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Abstract

This paper provides background to the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church in Ireland and outlines the particular Irish dimensions to the problem. It argues that a systemic perspective offers best promise to conceptualise the problem of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and outlines. In turning to how the problem has been investigated by statutory and church commissioned inquiries and commissions of investigation (Murphy, 2009; Ryan, 2009) it becomes apparent that how the past is investigated and framed is not merely a neutral matter, but one that is complexly interwoven with present politic and changing social conditions. In offering a critique of the Murphy Report into the Handling of Abuse Complaints in the Archdioceses of Dublin (Murphy, 2009), as one example of a statutory commission of investigation in Ireland, some significant legal and methodological issues are raised that give cause for concern regarding some of the findings and judgements made. What cannot be disputed however is the fact that thousands of children were abused by Catholic clergy in Ireland and worldwide. We owe it to them to get to the full truth of what occurred and to prevent its re-occurrence. In considering a way forward for the church, victims of clergy must be placed at the centre of the church’s response, other key actors must be brought together in dialogue and the church must deal with the systemic genesis of the problem in a spirit of institutional reform and transformation.

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