by Jon Witt
Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.
This book, as an exploratory sociological analysis, broadly examines the major structural factors which contribute to the social disorganization of the Catholic hierarchy as a clerical community, facilitating the persistence of clerical sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Using some tenets of the social disorganization theory on crime and deviance as the overall theoretical framework with some perspectives from social organization, social network, and social capital, and secondary literature and qualitative data to support the arguments, it examines the (1) diocesan clergy’s social interaction, mutual support, and social control system in the hierarchical community, (2) connection between mandated clerical celibacy and clerical sexual abuse, and (3) the implication of the laity’s lack of empowerment and ecclesiastical authority to monitor and sanction clerical behavior. The Catholic hierarchy prides itself as a unified community of clerics under the Pope who shares the one priesthood of Christ. But the current clerical sexual scandals and the inability of bishops to adequately manage clerical sexual abuse cases makes one wonder whether the Catholic clergy is indeed a cohesive and socially organized community which inhibits clerical sexual abuse. This book invites Church authorities, theologians, scholars, and lay leaders to understand the persistent clerical sexual abuse empirically and to come up with structural reforms which enhance the social network and social control systems of the Catholic hierarchy against clerical sexual misconduct and support victims.