Understanding and Explaining Child Sexual Abuse within the Catholic Church

Marie Keenan

in Child Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199895670
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919604 | DOI:
Understanding and Explaining Child Sexual Abuse within the Catholic Church

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This chapter begins by making the case for a gendered perspective on child sexual abuse and by extension on sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. Initially, it thematically elucidates a number of broad structural and institutional conditions that emerged as significant in the lives the clerical perpetrators; all of which are implicated in their sexual offending. Many of these conditions relate also to Catholic clergy more generally and not just the clerical perpetrators. Therefore, further theoretical refinement is necessary. This is undertaken by turning to the dynamic factors that distinguish clerics who become abuse perpetrators from those who do not. For this analytical work, it draws on the insights of Erving Goff man (1975/1961), which facilitates a discussion of seminary formation and how clerical identity is construed. A gendered theory of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy is developed in which the clerical perpetrator is conceptualized as part of a more layered and complex theory of clerical masculinities. Leaving the clerical perpetrators, the chapter then turns to the institutional and societal dimensions of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, interweaving the understanding of the clerical perpetrators with the social, cultural, and organizational factors encountered, to develop a multi-layered framework for understanding sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in Ireland. While this framework acts as an exemplar of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church more broadly, what is presented here is an attempt to conceptualize the issues involved in a meaningful way and to develop some useful understandings.

Keywords: Catholic Church; Catholic clergy; child sexual abuse; sexual offending; Ireland

Chapter.  16765 words. 

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