Céline Béraud’s Church “put to the test of sex scandals”, a crisis of authority

French Catholicism put to the test of sex scandals

by Céline Béraud

Threshold, 112 p., € 11.80

The successive revelations of serious scandals that have marked the last few years have had a devastating effect on the Catholic Church. This is the occasion for Céline Béraud, in this short work, to establish a general panorama of Catholicism which has seen the collapse of spiritual figures such as Jean Vanier, Father Finet or the Philippe brothers, but also a “starification”. From the priest. Likewise, she describes the estrangement of the faithful even as the fire in Notre-Dame arouses great emotion.


This investigative work shows the extent of the crisis, which goes so far as to arouse the anger of certain Catholics who have deserted Sunday Mass or ceased to participate in the Church’s money, some even asking to be deleted from the registers. baptism. This disaffection is not recent, but it is accentuated by the scandals revealed: “Sexual scandals hit an already weakened institution”, notes the sociologist for whom rejection is “Perhaps less as a disengagement from Catholicism than as a form of protest against the hierarchy”.

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This results in another way of being Catholic and, in fact, “A critique of the central criterion of attendance at Mass as an indicator of the intensity of religiosity”. Although the reactions during the confinements showed the visceral attachment to the Eucharist, revealing a clearer fracture of the Catholics.


The second effect is clearly a crisis of authority, denounced as having its source in a clericalism paradoxically reinforced by “The exclusivity of the clergy, as the main and irreplaceable actor in the liturgical performance”. The book poses this question more radically by raising dissenting voices: “While the mobilization against marriage for all had shown the importance of the conservative pole, the internal plurality of French Catholicism is now more noticeable”, considers the author. “These Catholics that we heard more, including among the priests and the faithful most attached to the institution, question the mode of vertical and top-down management of authority. “

The revelations of sexual assault and abuse ultimately act as a catalyst causing what Céline Béraud refers to as “The return of speeches of change”. So, “The scandals had the effect of raising the question of the sexuality of priests”. More broadly, the projects that Céline Béraud have identified, such as the ordination of married women or men, the place of the laity and the exercise of synodality, are mentioned as a possible way out of the crisis.


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