Ecclesia of Women in Asia

Forum of Asian Catholic Women Theologians

Facing the Reality of Clergy Sexual Misconduct in the Church: A Step Toward Justice and Healing , by Nila Bermisa


The recent events of sexual abuse within the Church publicized by the news media have rocked the Catholic Church both as an institution and as a faith community. The fact that this topic has dominated the headlines worldwide highlights the extent of the sexual abuse in the Church by clergy and religious. The Philippines has been one of the countries where this abuse was most publicized. This seems to be an indication of the power and influence of this institution, the same power that has seemingly been corrupted giving way to sexual abuse and violence against women by clergy both diocesan and religious priests, and brothers.

The article provides some understanding of the root causes of sexual violence within the Church particularly in the Philippines, and presents what might be possible avenues toward justice and healing among survivors, the faith communities and the Church. Part I deals with the clarification or explanation of terms, giving case examples of the various kinds of sexual abuses within the church in the Philippines. The legal definitions are examined along with the descriptions of the CBCP (Conference of Catholic Bishops in the Philippines) as stated in their latest “Guidelines on Clerical Sexual Misconduct.” Part II is a political and socio-cultural analysis of sexual violence (especially against women) in the Catholic Church in the Philippines. It looks at how culture and religion as well as colonization have perpetuated sexual violence in the country. Part III presents current responses to these sexual violations or perversions of sexuality by the church and faith communities. The impact of the response (on parties concerned), both positive and negative, is also discussed.

The presentation ends with a theological reflection, and envisioning the future based on sharing of women survivors and church members regarding their vision of a transformed and healed faith community and church.

Nila Bermisa, mm, Philippines, is a sister of the Maryknoll Missionaries. She is currently the academic dean of the Institute of Formation and Religious Studies in Manila and a candidate of Doctor in Ministry at the San Francisco Theological Seminary, California

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