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

By Thomas G. Plante | Go to book overview

Chapter 1
Introduction: What Do We Know
About Roman Catholic Priests
Who Sexually Abuse Minors?

Thomas G. Plante

A tremendous amount of media attention in recent years has focused on sexual abuse committed by Roman Catholic priests. Almost every major news magazine and newspaper has provided feature stories about Catholic priests being sexually involved with both children and consenting adults of both genders. Most of these articles have also been highly critical of how local religious superiors, bishops, pastors, and the Church at large has handled cases of sexual abuse and victimization. Many have suggested that the Church has been too secretive about this problem and that little compassion, understanding, and assistance has been offered to the victims of clergy abuse. Many have expressed outrage that clergy sexual abuse has occurred and has been allowed to continue. Some priests have been moved from parish to parish leaving a long trail of abuse wherever they go. Even legal authorities have been reluctant to pursue criminal proceedings against clergy members ( Young & Griffith, 1995). Sensational cases have dominated the press.

Although the media has highlighted this issue, the mental health professional community has been surprisingly quiet about clergy sexual abuse ( Isley, 1997). While there are numerous books and research studies on the topic of sexual abuse, only a few professional books and research studies have addressed the issue of Roman Catholic priests sexually abusing minors or consenting adults. Although the professional community could offer guidance, insight, and assistance in this area, it has been remarkably silent. Why?

In many respects it is not surprising that mental health professionals are silent about issues related to Catholic or other clergy. For many years the religious and professional mental health communities have maintained a strained relationship ( Jones, 1994; Weaver, Samford, Kline, Lucas, Larson, & Koenig, 1997). At best, a passive indifference has been the norm. For example, only approximately 5 percent of clinical psychologists report any training in religious or spiritual

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