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Boundary Breaking

The Centre for Catholic Studies' (CCS) Boundary Breaking research project explored the ecclesial and cultural implications of the child abuse crisis in the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

The research took place from 2019-2023. 

The Cross of the Moment

The main research report based on the qualitative work was published in April 2024, titled The Cross of the Moment. You can download the digital version of the report below, either in the complete version or in separate chapters.

Download The Cross of the Moment


A summary of the report is available here:

The Cross of the Moment - Report Summary.pdf

A brief Reading Guide is available here:

Reading Guide The Cross of the Moment.pdf

The project explored how aspects of Catholic culture were implicated in how abuse happened in Catholic settings and how the institutional response has often lacked compassion and justice. The research then engaged in theological reflection on the questions raised, discussing aspects of Catholic teaching and drawing out relevant theological insights.

The research was empirical, based on listening to wide range of voices drawn from across parishes, dioceses and religious communities in England and Wales. The research team carried out eighty-two interviews and four focus groups.

Throughout the research, the voices and perspectives of survivors were particularly important. Survivors with relevant expertise advised as part of the governance of the project as well as taking part in interviews and focus groups.

The report has four stages:

  • It presents the voices and experience of different groups within and beyond the Church who have been directly affected: survivors; parish members; women; priests; bishops; religious men and women.
  • It draws out some of the habits, attitudes and understandings embedded within Catholic culture which are implicated in how abuse happened and how the response has frequently been inadequate or mishandled.
  • It explores ideas from Catholic teaching and theology which underpin these aspects of Catholic culture and considers fresh perspectives which might open up better understanding and practice.
  • It suggests practical paths forward that can be taken at various levels of the Church. In particular, it points to synodal processes and restorative approaches to healing and justice within the Church.

The report invites the whole Catholic community to listen to the voices and consider together what can be learned and how pathways of change and what Pope Francies terms ‘conversion of hearts’ can be taken.

The research was carried out in conformity with the high academic standards and ethical research principles expected by the University. See Research Integrity Policy and Code of Good Practice - Durham University


Front cover jpeg of The Cross of the Moment



Attitudes of Catholics in England and Wales to Child Sex Abuse in the Catholic Church.

To enrich the overall picture presented by the qualitative research, the Boundary Breaking project team commissioned a survey from YouGov to find out more about the attitudes of Catholics who are less directly affected by this issue. Over 3000 self-identifying Catholics responded to an online questionnaire. The sample was representative of the Catholic population in England and Wales, including regular and occasional churchgoers as well as those who do not come to Mass but still identify as Catholics. The survey gathered data on three main areas regarding the Catholic Church’s handling of child sexual abuse allegations and cases in England and Wales:

  • What awareness do Catholics have of these issues?
  • What attitudes do Catholics hold towards the Church’s handling of child sexual abuse within the Church?
  • What impact has Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church in England and Wales had on specific areas of the practice of ordinary Catholics? That is, not only those entrusted with a specific ministry or professional responsibility, or affected directly by, child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

The survey report will be published soon and available on these pages.

Finding Support

Those who have been sexually abused experience devastating and lifelong effects. If you have been affected by sexual abuse in a setting related to the Catholic Church or the Church of England and wish to seek help, you can approach these organisations.

Safe Spaces Home - Safe Spaces England and Wales

Survivors Voices Survivors Voices

Each Catholic diocese also has details of its Safeguarding teams and policies and other sources of support on diocesan webpages.


For enquiries relating to the research, please contact

For enquiries relating to copies of the report, please contact