Julie Hanlon Rubio – « Masculinity and sexual abuse in the Church »

5. Conclusion: From the heart of the seminary 

I began this essay from the context of the school of theology and ministry that is my new home. Every day I am in the classroom and the chapel, and at table and bar, with current and future priests, sisters, and lay men, and lay women. The stakes seem extraordinarily high – because ministers were and are the abusers and the silence keepers, and because my students care deeply about the Church and this crisis has torn them apart. Like others, we lamented, listened to experts, and offered pastoral expertise. But the most important work has just begun and it will test the limits of our school. In an institutional ‘examen,’ we are asking ourselves: How have we been complicit with clericalism? How have we challenged it?[27] In open discussion, one on one interviews, as faculty, staff, and students, we are asking these questions. If we are honest, our analysis will take us to questions about gender. As we grapple with the reality of males as the primary perpetrators and enablers of sexual violence, we will have to ask how masculinity is performed at our school, how practices central to our organization, academic programs, social life, and rituals are gendered, how power and powerlessness are experienced and enacted, how masculinity might be ‘undone’ and reconceived. It will not be easy. It is hard to expose the dark underside of things that have long histories, are difficult to see, and may mean a great deal to many in our community. But if the scandal is to be undone, asking the joy-killing questions about masculinity and sexual violence in the Church is unavoidable.

[27] In Ignatian spirituality, the ‘examen’ is a method of reflecting on daily life with attentiveness to God’s presence and direction. Institutional examens invite reflection at a macro-level.


Julie Hanlon Rubio joined the faculty at Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, California, after 19 years at St. Louis University. She writes about Catholic social thought as it relates to sex, gender, marriage, and family. She is the author of four books, including Hope for Common Ground: Mediating the Personal and the Political in a Divided Church (2016), which won the College Theology Society’s annual book award. Currently, she is writing a book called Catholic and Feminist: Is It Still Possible?

Adress: Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara, 1735 Leroy Ave., Berkeley, CA 94709, USA.

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