In this episode, Breann Fallon talks to Dr. Kathleen McPhillips about her work on the Catholic Church and the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse.

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About this episode

In this last regular episode of the first half of our 2020-2021 season, Breann Fallon talks to Dr. Kathleen McPhillips about her work on the Catholic Church and the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (2013-2017). In her research, Dr. McPhillips utilised Erving Goffman’s work on stigma, and in this episode, she speaks on the process of stigmatisation of survivors by the institutions in which they experienced abuse, both at the time and during their process of disclosure. The conversation turns to the impact of this abuse on the survivor’s religious experience, a topic she has written on in her article “Soul Murder” (2018). In discussing the impact on faith, Dr. McPhillips highlights the impact of the commission’s findings on the broader religious community, where many experienced the shaking of faith foundations due to the central position of religious institutions in the creation of their worldview. The episode ends with Dr. McPhillips sharing her critically important pilot podcast series, The Survivor Story Podcast, which explores the experiences of 5 survivors of church-based institutional child sexual abuse in the Newcastle-Maitland diocese.

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Responses to this episode

The Challenge of “Soul Murder”: Disentangling Religion and Sexual Abuse

"Is sexual abuse categorically different in religious contexts than in other institutional contexts," ask Brian Clites in this response to our interview with Katherine McPhillips. Focusing on the concept of "soul murder," Clites and McPhillips both argue the answer is yes. Read on to find out why.

Amplifying Survivors’ Voices

In this response to our episode with Kathleen McPhillips on the Australian Royal Commission's Report on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Jack Downey offers a wider global lens on the challenges the Catholic Church faces regarding sexual abuse.

Confronting the Stigma of Sexual Abuse with Transitional Justice and Trauma-Informed Principles

Overcoming the stigma of sexual abuse remains a central challenge for survivors. In response to our interview with Kathleen McPhillips on the Australian Royal Commission's Report on Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Dr. Kate Gleeson reminds us of the urgency of working with transitional justice and trauma-informed principles to place survivors and their needs at the center of processes of investigation and healing.

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