My own introduction to the publication, from 1995, lacks the strength of conviction I feel today. If I were writing it now, I would be much more aware of the need for such a book. Back then I had no doubt that some clergy were abusing people, however I had no idea how widespread it was or how many senior clergy were involved in covering it up until the findings of the Royal Commission were made public.
When Ministers Sin makes clear that abuse by clergy is the ultimate betrayal. It comes from people with the name of God on their lips and whose role it is to bring the Good News of God. There are stories of abusers who try to persuade their victims that they are expressing love through their abuse of them, when in fact it is far from that.
Abusing vulnerable people, and hiding it from others in order to sustain the imagined holy life of the clergy, is sinfulness at another level. Thea and Neil have brought this betrayal to life by offering genuine stories which carry us into the terrible truth, with all its complexity, different ways of responding and ultimate effects. Of course, they are very careful to protect the identity of those who have been wounded and whose stories are being told.
In their writing, we are called to reflect more deeply on the nature of both power and vulnerability and the way the sinners involved often defend themselves. Some of us know only too well how long some abused people take to restore their lives, if at all.
In this book there are all sorts of stories and profound reflections on complex or simple situations which guide us strongly towards the truth and our responsibilities in bringing this treachery to an end. In fact, Thea and Neil are doing just that in writing the book. It challenges those of us who are part of the church to be more responsible in exposing and condemning any form of abuse, and invites deeper thinking about celibacy required of priests.