New book on sexual violence in the context of the church

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Book cover ’Sexual violence in the context of the church’.  De Gruy
Book cover ’Sexual violence in the context of the church’. De Gruyter
Three theologians from the University of Bern have published an interdisciplinary work on sexual violence in churches, which for the first time takes a scholarly look at the fundamentals of the problem.

Professors Mathias Wirth, Isabelle Noth, and Silvia Schroer from the Faculty of Theology at the University of Bern, through the renowned publisher De Gruyter, have published an interdisciplinary and interdenominational work entitled "Sexual Violence in the Context of the Church". The book was written in collaboration with an international team of scientists from the fields of history, medicine, philosophy, psychology, and theology.

Sexual violence in churches as a problem of centralized ways of thinking

"There is no end to the news about the extent of sexual violence in various churches and their affiliated institutions, nor to our fear of it," says co-editor Silvia Schroer, Professor of the Old Testament. Until now, according to Mathias Wirth, first editor and head of the Ethics Department, there had not been enough basic scientific work that would properly address the interdisciplinary challenge of the problem of sexual violence in the church sector, and which would not remain satisfied with superficial answers and proposals for measures. This is because, "there are basic theological assumptions and established habits in churches that manifest as enabling structures for sexual violence," Wirth points out.

In the book, centralized ways of thinking as the context of the problem of sexualized violence in churches and the structures associated with them are discussed academically for the first time. "Specifically, the book’s contributors ask how theological ways of thinking and church practices that have hardly been problematized so far need to be discussed and criticized anew as enabling structures of sexual violence," says co-editor Isabelle Noth, Professor of Pastoral Care, Psychology of Religion, and Religious Education. In topics such as the ethos of unconditional forgiveness, the privileging of masculinity, binarity, and loyalty, the connection to sexual violence must always be considered and included, the three editors say.

Arguments for those affected and constructive suggestions for a change in thinking

The new book provides all stakeholders and those affected with arguments for being more considerate of those who have been exposed to sexual violence in churches. "Comments by church leaders and their often timid interventions have so far inadequately responded to the moral problems associated with sexual violence," says Mathias Wirth. This is displayed critically by the contributors in the book. In addition, constructive suggestions are made for the transformation of theological thinking and church practice. Thus, the editors want to establish a perspective of sexual violence as an interdisciplinary and theological problem of the highest order.

Book details

Wirth, Mathias, Noth, Isabelle, Schroer, Silvia. Sexual Violence in the Context of the Church

Neue interdisziplinare Perspektiven, Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2021.­/document/­doi/10.151­5/97831106­99203/html

About the editors

Prof. Mathias Wirth is Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology / Ethics at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Bern and Head of the Department of Ethics there.

Prof. Isabelle Noth is Professor of Pastoral Care, Psychology of Religion, and Religious Education as well as Co-Director of the Institute of Practical Theology at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Bern.

Prof. Silvia Schroer is Professor of Old Testament (with special emphasis on the biblical environment) at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Bern.