Bless Me Father for I Have Sinned: Perspectives on Sexual Abuse Committed by Roman Catholic Priests

Bless Me Father for I Have Sinned: Perspectives on Sexual Abuse Committed by Roman Catholic Priests

Bless Me Father for I Have Sinned: Perspectives on Sexual Abuse Committed by Roman Catholic Priests

Bless Me Father for I Have Sinned: Perspectives on Sexual Abuse Committed by Roman Catholic Priests

Synopsis

A tremendous amount of media attention has been devoted to revealing sexual abuse perpetrated by Roman Catholic priests. These essays outline a clinical agenda for professionals dealing with clergy sexual abuse. They should enable research clinical professionals, and clergy to identify the relevant issues in the identification, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of child and adolescent sexual abuse committed by Roman Catholic priests. Leading experts in the field from the United States and Canada have offered their different perspectives on this compelling problem including victim profiles for determining who is at risk.

Excerpt

Sylvia M. Demarest

I have carefully considered what perspective I might bring to this important book. I am a private attorney, not a medical professional. I cannot claim to be an objective observer. I have sued Bishops and Catholic Dioceses on behalf of abuse victims. My comments are from that perspective.

As an attorney who has interviewed scores of abuse victims, I compare the sexual abuse of children to a communicable disease. Some researchers describe the propensity to sexually abuse minors as learned behavior that transmits the cycle of abuse from abuser to abuse victim. Once the cycle of abuse infects an incestuous family, it spreads and goes from one generation to the next. Similarly, the cycle of domestic violence establishes patterns of violence that continue in the lives of the sons and daughters who observe it. The learned behavior is repeated, either as victims or victimizers.

Many authors in this book note that 80 to 90 percent of priest abuse victims are adolescent boys. This is not good news. As John C. Gonsiorek points out in his chapter, boys respond more often with acts of aggression and report a greater sexual interest in children. Simply stated, boys act out, often violently and sexually. In fact, there appears to be a tremendous correlation between adult sociopathology and childhood abuse, including childhood sexual abuse.

This does not minimize the damage to girls resulting from sexual abuse. There is also a close correlation between the sexual abuse of girls and adult sociopathology in women.

I have often described the effects of the sexual abuse of children on society as an inverted pyramid where the abuse of one child at the peak of the inverted pyramid radiates to impact many other people over that child's lifetime. This is true whether the abuse victim is male or female.

Dr. Gonsiorek notes that less sophisticated, less worldly, more naive rural and working-class youth are over-represented in the ranks of those abused by clergy. Also, youth who have been psychologically damaged are particularly vulnerable . . .

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