Sunday Syllabus is a round-up of interesting articles and links that I came across over the last week. I sometimes provide a little commentary or raise questions. The content is not necessarily brand new, just new to me. If you have a recommendation, use the contact form. No promises.
The theme of this week is the reality of violence, both individual and systemic, and the difficulty of charting a path to the future. The image above is of St. Jude, patron of lost causes, impossible situations … and hope.
FEATURED ARTICLE: A substantial report “Child Sex Abuse and the Catholic Church” recently appeared. It is mostly a literature review, covering 26 independent and church inquiries, including 10 from Australia. The authors are both Australians and former priests with education in both ecclesiastical and social science fields. The research goal is to identify which particular attitudes, structures, and/or ideas contributed to the church’s culture of abuse and inadequate response. Chapter 11 offers some interpretations of the data. The authors find fault mainly with priestly formation, including both the practices employed and some of the prevailing ideology:
“Their offending behaviour was mediated by a set of cognitive and emotional distortions, denial mechanisms and neutralisation techniques that were generated by macro-level theological substrates of (a) a patriarchal imaginary of God, (b) a sacrificial theology of priesthood and religious brotherhood based on their vocational calling and divine chosenness, and (c) an essentialist theology of human sexuality, and by a set of psychological realities including: (i) unresolved sexual identity, (ii) an ungrieved loss of sexual intimacy, and (iii) overwhelming feelings of emotional loneliness” (294).
This report has limitations, but it is a serious attempt by practicing Catholics to combine both insider and outsider perspectives, appealing to the virtues of the Catholic Church while offering advice on correcting its vices.
Max Perry Mueller’s Race and the Making of the Mormon People offers a textured and personal account of the racial hardening of the Mormon Church through the life of Jane Manning James, a black woman who led her family to join the Mormons and make the initial journey to Utah. James lived through the crucial decades in which her wholehearted embrace of Mormonism was increasingly met with rejection of her skin. Nevertheless, Mormonism from the beginning to today has been far from homogeneously “white.” Mueller narrates the aspiration for whiteness as part of the larger story of American culture.
Lisa Wickern writes a personal moving essay on surviving suicidal thoughts after the death of her son. The surprising part? She gives the credit to atheism.
Mukul Kesavan takes a series of recent murders of left-leaning journalists in India as an indication that political violence is being normalized in the nation. “The function of political violence is to let bigotry slip sideways into public conversations. Every lynching, no matter how horrifying, becomes, in time, a matter of debate.”