My journey with clergy sexual abuse began in 1989 when Archbishop Alphonsus Penney of St John’s, Newfoundland invited me to participate as the pediatrician in the ground-breaking Archdiocesan Commission of Enquiry into the Sexual Abuse of Minors by Members of the Clergy there. The Commission decided to both pursue academic research on the issue and the experience of those affected. I learned the crucial lesson of listening to victim-survivors. I thank all the victims-survivors of clergy sexual abuse and their families who have helped me to understand their pain and who trusted that I would do what I could to foster healing and long term prevention. The Commission taught me the importance of deeper study of the systemic and cultural issues fostering the crisis and inadequate leadership response.
I also acknowledge the many non-offending bishops and priests who have trusted me to lead clergy study days and to share my insights on diagnosis and often uncomfortable and challenging recommendations for treatment.
I am grateful to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops for their invitation to participate as an advisor in their 1990-1992 deliberations which produced From Pain to Hope and again in 2014 as an advisor to assist in their 2018 Protecting Minors from Sexual Abuse: A Call to the Catholic Faithful in Canada for Healing, Reconciliation and Transformation. In 2012, I wrote Healing the Church: Diagnosing and Treating the Clergy Sexual Abuse Crisis after realizing that Church leadership was unwilling or unable to pursue the systemic and cultural factors, including beliefs, practices, relationships and structures operative in this crisis.
Dr. Nuala Patricia Kenny was born in New York and entered the Sisters of Charity of Halifax in 1962. She received her BA, Magna Cum Laude, from Mount Saint Vincent University in 1967, an MD from Dalhousie in 1972 and did postgraduate training in pediatrics at Dalhousie and Tufts-New England Medical Centre, during which she held a Killam Scholarship. In 1975, she became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physician and Surgeons of Canada and in 1976 was certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. In 1993, held a Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada Fellowship in Continuing Medical Education at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University under the mentorship of Dr. Edmund Pellegrino. In 2001, she was a Scholar in Residence at the Rockefeller Foundation Study Centre in Bellagio, Italy.
Doctor Kenny joined the Department of Pediatrics at Dalhousie in 1975 as the Coordinator of Regional Pediatric Services. In 1982, she became Director of Medical Education at the Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto. In 1985 she was appointed Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Pediatrics at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario. She returned to Dalhousie as Professor and Head of the Department of Pediatrics and Chief of Pediatrics at the Izaak Walton Killam Hospital in 1988. In 1995, she became the founding Chair of the Department of Bioethics of Dalhousie Faculty of Medicine. From February to November 1999, Dr. Kenny was seconded as Deputy Minister of Health for the Province of Nova Scotia. From 2009-2014 she served as Health Policy Advisor to the Catholic Health Alliance of Canada.
Among other awards, she has received seven Honorary Doctorates for her work in child health, medical education and bioethics from Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, NS (1992), the Atlantic School of Theology, Halifax, NS (2000), Regis College, Toronto, ON (2000), St. Francis Xavier University Antigonish, NS (2000), The College of New Rochelle, New York (2008), Saint Paul’s University, Ottawa, ON (2014) and St Mark’s College, Vancouver, B.C.(2017). In 1999 she was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada for her contributions to child health and medical education.
Author of over one hundred and eighty papers and four books, Dr. Kenny is nationally recognized as an educator and physician ethicist and travels extensively as a distinguished lecturer. Her book, Rediscovering the Art of Dying (2017), has received the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada First Place Award for a work in Pastoral Ministry.