The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) was established by the UK government in 2015 in response to increasing reports of child sexual abuse in a range of institutions, including Catholic organisations. In the latter, the abuse of minors has been investigated in the broader context of the “clergy abuse scandal”, notably the Catholic Church’s widely documented cover-up of a disconcertingly growing number of priests convicted of sexually assaulting children across the world. Adopting a Foucauldian perspective on confession, this article sets out an anthropological and historical approach to the study of the “clergy abuse secret”, as a historically constructed, and politically contested, “confessional arena”. Drawing on ethnographic analysis of IICSA’s public hearings, and interviews with survivor and church organisations in England, it comparatively pinpoints three, interrelated confessionals that differently organise speech and silence in relation to the abuse secret: the confessional booth, survivor clinics, and the Inquiry’s “digital courtroom”. Breaking the silence is necessary in each of these contexts. Each of them, however, organises the secret’s revelations in profoundly different ways, for different aims, and in the presence of different audiences. By exploring the different social settings in which the abuse secret is recursively confessed, this article sheds light on survivors’ confessional path from silence to public disclosure, revealing how their narratives are variously shaped, constrained, enabled, or censored through conflicting “games of truth”.

(Un)holy Secrets: Politics of Silence and Confession in the UK’s Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Bolotta Giuseppe
2021

Abstract

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) was established by the UK government in 2015 in response to increasing reports of child sexual abuse in a range of institutions, including Catholic organisations. In the latter, the abuse of minors has been investigated in the broader context of the “clergy abuse scandal”, notably the Catholic Church’s widely documented cover-up of a disconcertingly growing number of priests convicted of sexually assaulting children across the world. Adopting a Foucauldian perspective on confession, this article sets out an anthropological and historical approach to the study of the “clergy abuse secret”, as a historically constructed, and politically contested, “confessional arena”. Drawing on ethnographic analysis of IICSA’s public hearings, and interviews with survivor and church organisations in England, it comparatively pinpoints three, interrelated confessionals that differently organise speech and silence in relation to the abuse secret: the confessional booth, survivor clinics, and the Inquiry’s “digital courtroom”. Breaking the silence is necessary in each of these contexts. Each of them, however, organises the secret’s revelations in profoundly different ways, for different aims, and in the presence of different audiences. By exploring the different social settings in which the abuse secret is recursively confessed, this article sheds light on survivors’ confessional path from silence to public disclosure, revealing how their narratives are variously shaped, constrained, enabled, or censored through conflicting “games of truth”.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/10278/3754111
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