Visiting nun in Bermuda to discuss sexual abuse

Child sex abuse isn’t about sex, it’s about an abuse of power, said a visiting nun who is an expert on bioethics.

Dr Nuala Kenny, a member of the order of Sisters of Charity, is the author of Healing the Church: Diagnosing and Treating the Clergy Sexual Abuse Scandal. She will speak today and tomorrow on several topics include sex abuse within the church.

She was born in New York, but now describes herself as an “adopted Halifaxer”. She joined the Sisters of Charity in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada in 1962 before graduating from Dalhousie medical school in 1972. She became a paediatrician four years later. Having worked in Ontario in the early 1980s, Dr Kenny returned to Halifax in 1988 as a professor and head of the paediatrics department at Dalhousie University and chief of paediatrics at the Izaak Walton Killam Children’s Hospital (now the IWK Health Centre) and later as deputy health minister for Nova Scotia.

“I am a paediatrician by training,” she said. “I am a Roman Catholic Sister who is a doctor. I did paediatrics with special attention to end of life care with children. I also did an extra year of training in paediatric cancer care.”

She said it was no leap at all from cancer care to child sexual abuse.

“As a general paediatrician I was on the child abuse team,” she said. “Child abuse only became a public issue in North America in the late 1960s and early 1970s. When I was going to medical school, I don’t recall having a single lecture on child abuse, even physical abuse. By the time I was doing my residency, the physical abuse of children was being recognised as a huge problem. The sexual abuse of children then we became attentive to abuse, then became an issue to tackle.”

When the first big public revelations of child sexual abuse within the Catholic church happened in Canada in St John’s Newfoundland, back in the 1990s, a commission to look at child abuse was set up.

“I was asked as a woman, as a paediatrician, and as a Roman Catholic sister to be on that commission,” she said.

She said when she first joined the Commission she had no idea the scope of the issue.

“No one did,” she said.

She will give a lecture about sex abuse within the Catholic church this evening (Friday) from 7.30pm to 9pm at St Theresa’s Cathedral Hall on Laffan Street. Tomorrow (Saturday) she will give a lecture entitled Joy of Gospel, Credible Witness in a Post Christian World from 11am to 12.30pm in the same location.

There will be a lunch, and then from 1.30pm to 3pm she will talk about healthcare and the making of a good death. The lecture will look at the Catholic tradition of a good death, and getting people to understand their rights and obligations in regards to refusal of treatment.

Those interested in the lunch are asked to RSVP to 236-5877.

For more about Dr Kenny see our interview in Saturday’s religion section.

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Published Mar 28, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated Mar 27, 2014 at 7:46 pm)

Visiting nun in Bermuda to discuss sexual abuse

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