Determining the Limits of the Rhetoric of Apology: The Sexual Abuse Crisis in Ireland’s Catholic Church

By Matthew Kilian McCurrie.

Published by The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This essay examines the complex rhetorical challenges confronting a Catholic religious order as it attempts to apologize for the abuse of minors by its members. Using key elements of traditional studies in apologia and more contemporary research dealing with official or community-based apologies, the author demonstrates the possibilities and limitations of apologetic rhetoric to heal wounds and set a community on a path to reconciliation. The Irish government’s publication of the Ryan Commission Report in 2009 brought to a stunning climax a five-year effort to document the chronic physical, emotional and sexual abuse suffered by minors in the industrial schools of Ireland run by Catholic religious orders. In order to understand the unique exigencies and purposes motivating the Christian Brothers’ apologies, this essay develops a critical lens that appreciates a Judeo-Christian cultural backdrop as well as the demands and expectations of a contemporary secular culture. Applying this critical lens to the case of the Christian Brothers in Ireland will show how religious tradition and ecclesial structure not only may enable, but also constrain apology.

Keywords: Rhetoric, Apology, Reconciliation

The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp.35-46. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 247.115KB).

Dr. Matthew Kilian McCurrie

Associate Professor, English, Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, Il, USA

Matthew Kilian McCurrie teaches courses in rhetoric and composition and directs the First Year Writing program. His publications have appeared in College Composiiton and Communication, The Journal of Basic Wriitng, English Journal, and Pedgogy.