Boys of the Cloth: The Accidental Role of Church Reforms in Causing and Curbing Abuse by Priests Reviewed By John Cowans of Bookpleasures.com
Reviewer John Cowans: John was a University, College, and School English teacher for over 40 years, John Cowans now lives in retirement in Chester., Nova Scotia.View all articles by John Cowans
Author: Vincent J. Miles
Publisher: Hamilton Books
On February 3, 2013 The Guardian (UK) reported the following:
“Roman Catholic parishioners in Los Angeles were read a letter from Archbishop Jose Gomez on Sunday in which he described newly released files on clergy sex abuse as ‘terribly sad and evil’..... Archbishop Gomez recently stripped his predecessor Cardinal Roger Mahony of his administrative duties for failing to take swift action against abusive priests.
In his letter, Gomez
described the latest records to be made public as ‘brutal and
painful reading’.....”The behavior described in these files is
terribly sad and evil," Gomez wrote. “There is no excuse, no
explaining away what happened to these children. The priests involved
had the duty to be their spiritual fathers and they failed."
There certainly can be ‘no explaining away’ of the fact that
thousands of Roman Catholic priests sexually abused thousands of
young children, mostly boys, during the last fifty years of the 20th
century, and in his excellent book, Boys of the Cloth, Vincent Miles
offers his view as to a possible cause for this deplorable epidemic.
He opines that the seminary system, founded in the 16th Century which
originally was designed to eradicate corruption in the clergy
unwittingly encouraged the sexual abuse of children; these
revelations have resulted in bringing low the reputation of the once
strong and unassailable Church of Rome
After spending much of his youth in Liverpool's Catholic seminary training for the priesthood, Vincent J. Miles embarked on a very different career path as a molecular biologist and biotechnology executive. He holds B.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees from University College London and is currently a venture capitalist in the Boston area.
Vincent Miles was enrolled in Upholland College, the Catholic Seminary of the Archdiocese of Liverpool, at the age of 11 in September 1962. He graduated 6 years later, in the summer of 1969. Much to his family’s initial chagrin, he had decided against ordination and chose instead to study biochemistry at University College, London. Vincent Miles’ 2500 days spent at Upholland were in most ways typical of boarding school life: study, sports, hanging out with friends, eating, sleeping, and, of course,chapel attendance which because of Upholland’s religious ‘raison d’etre’ was frequent.
Interestingly, other than a
rather innocuous sexual advance made by another student, the author
says little about any sexual incidents in his time. What his
experience did give him was a thorough understanding of the daily
function of a religious seminary in the 1960’s. It was not until
long after his graduation that rumours first began to circulate about
the general abuse of young boys by members of the clergy in many
religious institutions.Here are some of Vincent Miles’s
• The revelations regarding sexual abuse by Catholic priests was first reported“... in the Boston Phoenix. In an article entitled ‘Cardinal sin‘ that appeared in March 2001, reporter Kristen Lombardi described shocking allegations by victims of .priest John Geoghan ..... several victims claimed that Boston’s archbishop, Cardinal Bernard Law had allowed Groghan to stay in ministry even after he knew that the priest had molested children. Ironically, [a following story in the Boston Globe] appeared on January 6, 2002, the Feast of the Epiphany.....Spurred on by the Globe’s example, reporters in other parts of the country began digging into court records....and unearthed similar patterns of sexual abuse by priests, reassignment of those priests by their bishops, and settlements that silenced victims.”
•“ ... the John Jay College survey(2002) ...revealed that in the half century period (1950-2002) it covered, 4,392 priests - about 4% of the total number in ministry- had been accused of abuse. Over 11,000 children were involved, 81% of them boys.”
•“ ...the National Review Board had no doubt where the blame lay for the ‘epidemic’ of abuse covered by the survey: with the seminary system... More specifically, the board pinpointed two vital functions in which the seminaries had failed: in their screening of candidates for the priesthood and the preparation of these candidates for the challenges of celibacy.”
Boys of the Cloth is an excellent assessment of the sexual abuse situation of which we are all well aware, and Vincent Miles’ fair and tempered treatment is a worthwhile addition to this ever increasing oeuvre. It should be noted that the Roman Catholic Church is not a lone perpetrator of this scandal. Similar atrocities have surfaced in Schools, Churches, and other organizations where children innocently congregate only to have been victimized by those placed in positions of power over them.Mr Miles indicates that abuse of this nature now appears thankfully to be on the wane. One can only hope and pray that this is indeed the case.
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