Prominent author, expert & ex-priest passes
We extend our deepest sympathies to the dozens of relatives, hundreds of friends and thousands of admirers of Eugene Kennedy, who has passed away at the age of 86. Most knew him for his towering intellect, compelling speeches and gripping writing. We knew him for his generous and kind heart.
Early in the Catholic abuse and cover up crisis, Kennedy relentlessly and eloquently reminded everyone he could that it’s about complicit bishops more than predator priests. He was also among the first to emphasize that genuine reform could happen best when victims and lay people ignored the church hierarchy and instead prodded secular authorities.
Even earlier (in 1971), he directed a psychological study of US priests for the American Bishops that showed a shockingly large sub-set of clerics whose inner psych-sexual growth lagged far behind their chronological growth. From these half grown men many sex abusers arose. Kennedy quietly but persistently warned bishops about these men. Later, he charged church officials with failing to address sexual intimacy and he held the Vatican responsible for a sexually dysfunctional system.
With deep compassion, he empowered lay Catholics to speak up, seek reform and avoid being intimidated or cowed by self-serving prelates. Kennedy stressed that the hierarchy wasn’t and isn’t the church but that rank-and-file Catholics were and are the church. He managed to always couch his wise counsel in gentle terms, without ever sounding impatient or judgmental.
Outspoken and inspiring advocates like Kennedy have played and still play an enormous role in prodding recalcitrant Catholic officials to respond to abuse victims and the laity. His voice – and his heart – will be sorely missed.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)