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This book calls on churches to face structures and processes in their organisations that inhibit personal autonomy and undermine faith. Religious knowledge should empower all individuals. Openness, mutual accountability, and personal authenticity are paramount where religious faith is proclaimed. There is a paradox where spiritual abuse occurs in churches.

While acknowledging continuing good does exist in religious organisations, Cara Beed seeks higher levels of responsibility from hierarchies throughout mainstream churches. While applauding the many demonstrations of accountability visible in the wider organisations representing the fullest range of the churches, Cara Beed calls on the churches to face the structures and processes in their organisations which inhibit personal autonomy, undermine the dignity of faith and inhibit personal contributions to the community of faith.

Structures and processes can be, and are, used to bind individuals and groups in forms of spiritual abuse. All forms of secrecy and any forms of physical, mental and emotional abuse contribute to spiritual abuse. Churches must ensure these aspects of human behaviour are not encouraged by the very nature of the church organisation. Openness, acknowledgment of truth and dignity of individuals are paramount where espousal of religious faith is promulgated. The paradox of church organisation being conducive to spiritual abuse must end.

This timely exposé of the misuse of religious power not only defines patterns of abuse, but highlights avenues for positive change.


Geraldine Doogue interviewed
Cara Beed for a segment that was included
in the ABC TV program "Compass"
in the episode "My Prayers, My People"
aired on ABC Television
on Sunday 6 December, 1998 at 10.10 p.m.


Cara Beed presented a seminar on:


at the
on Thursday 3 December, 1998
from 11a.m. to 12 noon
in the AIFS Staff Seminar Room,
Australian Institute of Family Studies,
300 Queen Street, Melbourne, 3000.

Information: Grace Soriano on 9214 7860

Book Contents

Authorâs Note
Foreword by Dr Ian Freckelton, Barrister

Adjunct Professor of Law and Legal Studies,
La Trobe University;
Honorary Associate Professor of Forensic Medicine, Monash University.

Section One ÷ Cultures of Secrecy and Abuse

Chapter 1 ÷ Introduction

Abuse And Bullying
The Culture of Abuse
Church-based Pastoral Care
The Culture of Secrecy
Pain in the Community
Personal Autonomy
Spiritual Abuse

Chapter 2 ÷ Breaking Secrecy and Isolation

Opening up the Silence
Taking Action
Churches Found Wanting
Legal Scrutiny and Public Discussion

Chapter 3 ÷ Truth, Awareness, Power

Being Able to Tell the Truth
Truth and Survival
Towards Understanding
Misuse of Power
Trust Misdirected

Section Two ÷ Recognising Potential for Abuse

Chapter 4 ÷ Structures, Processes, Leaders

Control by Leaders
Methods of Control Over Members
Veneration of Leaders as a Form of Control

Chapter 5 ÷ Mind Control, Leadership, Standards

Mind Control
Aberrant Secret Behaviour by Leaders
Lack of Accountability of Leadership and Group
Dependency of Participants, Not Independence
Questionable Sense of Community in Group
Who Joins Such Groups?
Isolation of Participants from Families and Friends
Leaving Such Groups and Its Effects
Responses by Churches

Chapter 6 ÷ Possible Ways Forward

About Change
Responsibilities of Churches
Recognising Potential for Abuse
Table 1 ÷ Processes Conducive to Abuse
Alternative Directions
Independent Intervention Needed
Open Discussion and Education




Cara Beed retired in 1995 as lecturer in sociology and Graduate Advisor in the Education Faculty, Christ Campus, Australian Catholic University. After an earlier career in the 1960s and 1970s directing creative arts, play and leisure programs for arts organisations, travelling nationally consulting on community arts for the Australia Council, Cara returned to study. While completing her graduate studies, prior to 1985, she lectured part time at RMIT and sessionally at other tertiary institutions. Cara retired to devote her attention to writing.

Cara and Clive Beed married in 1961. Their married son lives in London and married daughter in Melbourne. During the 1960s the Beeds contributed much of their time to establishing and extending child care and pre-school education at Melbourne University. To these, they added creative arts programs, as part of the Creative School Holiday Club which they founded to conduct arts workshops throughout metropolitan Melbourne in the 1960s and 1970s. Cara was a jogger until she took up regular swimming and water running.

Cara's main research interests focus on how cultures and ideologies affect 'personal autonomy' in contrast to the abuse of power in organisations and the community. She has been engaged in researching aspects of culture, ideologies and 'legitimate knowledge', as these relate to 'personal autonomy', power in organisations and limiting community action. To date, this research has been published in two strands: on homeless young people, and on secrecy about abuse in organisations such as the family, work place and in the church. Ideals held by homeless young people on the cohesion of home life have been published (Scripture Union Victoria, 1991; Interlogue, 1994; and Millenium, 1996). Two of her articles have been published on Youth Suicide ( Kairos, Oct. - Nov., 1993 & March 1994) and the paper on 'The culture of secrecy' appears in a book: Bullying: Causes, Costs & Cures (Beyond Bullying Association Inc., 1998).

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Cara worked with mothers in relation to their power to effect the ideals they expressed for their children's social programs. She compared these ideals with available programs in local government areas, and conducted action research with the mothers to create the social programs they aspired for their children. This work developed from Cara's consulting in Arts and Recreation (1960 & 1970s), when she was a member of advisory committees and the Consultant in Community Arts to the Australia Council (for the Arts). Cara's work involved advisory committee membership, national advisory tours, liaising with local governments and community groups in action research to pilot programs, and documenting trends that contributed to the founding of the Community Arts Board.

Cara works with Clive, also a retired academic, sharing research, writing and publishing in areas related to their knowledge and experience. Both came from families with highly developed social and political consciousness. They combined this awareness with their tertiary education in a search for personal faith on which to base their values and ethics for their family life, careers and writing. Their searches led them through a full gamut of political and religious parameters, during which they observed the reduction of personal autonomy amongst members of many groups.