The sexual scandal involving Roman Catholic priests and brothers that came to light in the late 1980s in Newfoundland offers an interesting—but disturbing—example of the longer-term impact of abuse by clerical leaders. As well, priests and pastors are sometimes silent accomplices to violence within church families by their failure to condemn abuse clearly and unequivocally from the pulpit as well as in the confines of their counseling relationship with abused women, abusive men, or couples in conflict. While conservative Christian congregations celebrate family values, the reality of the lives of many parishioners reveals that churches have been slow to respond to violence in their own midst or in the communities where they minister. As a result, there is a widening network of victims affected by the betrayed trust of clerical leaders. Though churches have unprecedented opportunities to be collaborative partners with the secular culture in the struggle to end sexual, physical and emotional violence, it is easier and less costly to look the other way. Reflecting on her social scientific research of Catholic and Protestant communities in Atlantic Canada, Nason-Clark will weave data from clergy, congregations, victims and ordinary men and women involved in parish life to tell the story of betrayed trust.
Dr. Nancy Nason-Clark
A Professor of Sociology at the University of New Brunswick, Nancy Nason-Clark is the founder and co-ordinator of the Religion and Violence Research Team at the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research, UNB. She is the author of The Battered Wife: How Christians Confront Family Violence (1997) and is currently completing a book called Congregations and Family Crisis. She has received over $800,000 in grants from governments and foundations for her research work on violence against women and children. A popular speaker and workshop leader, she has been invited to talk about her research both in Canada and the United States. She serves as the President of the Association for the Sociology of Religion. She has her Ph.D. from the London School of Economics and her M.A from the University of Waterloo. This year, she was awarded an honorary doctorate by Houghton College, New York.