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Book Review: Values and Scandals

When Values Collide: The Catholic Church, Sexual Abuse, and the Challenges of Leadership By Joseph Chinnici

The Catholic sexual abuse scandal has been horrific but has fascinated many. People involved have interests and agendas. Victims seek healing. Both victims and opportunists often seek large sums of money. The Church has worked to protect a current generation of children, to determine how to discipline erring priests and protect innocent ones, and also to survive organizationally in the face of an enormous threat. Some attorneys have made millions suing the Church, and others, like me, have been on the defense side of investigations to assist the Church in serving victims and in limiting damages. With literally thousands of articles written, news stories have been profitable for the media and have intrigued readers.  

But when the dust has settled and the checks are written, it is hard to know how to move forward spiritually and emotionally. Joseph Chinnici’s book takes an unusual approach, discussing issues of spiritual power and spiritual healing. 

In the 1990s, Joseph Chinnici was provincial superior of the Franciscan Friars in California when the first wave of the sexual abuse scandal broke there. His book offers a brief overview of the history of the scandal. He also tells the story of the investigation and public report the Franciscans initiated under his leadership in response to sexual abuse allegations at the time. 

In the following years, the scandal continued to grow nationwide, reaching its height in 2002. The book discusses some spiritual causes and effects in light of the Franciscan spiritual tradition. Fr. Chinnici addresses problems and solutions in terms of principles of spiritual power and relationship. In offering hope for redemption of the Church, he quotes Augustine on the Church:

Let the bride be happy, then, for she has been loved by God. And when was she loved? While she was still ugly, for as the apostle says, All have sinned and are in need of the glory of God, and again, Christ died for the impious. She was loved in her ugliness, that she might not remain ugly. It was not because she was ugly that she was loved; her ugliness was not itself the object of his love. If he had loved that, he would have preserved it, but in fact he rid her of her ugliness and formed beauty in her.

This book offers some guidance for leaders in the Church, and hope for others caught up in the scandal to a greater or lesser extent, that the Church will both survive and heal.

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