What Ted McCarrick’s ‘social networks’ could teach the Church

Catholic News Agency

July 17, 2020

By Kevin Jones

There are social networks, and then there are social networks. The term is usually used these days to refer to apps and sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and other places where online connection takes place.

But in a more technical sense, a social network is the structure formed by the complex web of ties between groups and individuals — the connections that link us. Think about the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” and you’re thinking about social network theory.

The bishops of the Catholic Church form that kind of social network. And mapping that network can provide some insight into how the Church functions, and how abusers might function within Church networks.

Two experts have used the science of social network mapping approach to consider how influential sexual abusers like ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick went unchecked in the Church, and how both problematic responses to sexual abuse by clergy—or good practices to reform the Church—might propagate through the bishops’ links with each other.

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