Separating facts about clergy abuse from fiction

clergy abuse

The recent release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on clergy sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church during the past 70 years has unleashed another round of headline news and sadly, much misinformation about this critically important problem.

Few topics elicit more emotion and rage from the public than sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests.

Certainly those most impacted by this terrible story, victims and their families, often express great emotion such as anger, disgust, and deep sadness, but even those who have never had anything to do with the Catholic Church, priests, or know any victims often do so in equal measure as well.

With such emotion, inevitably, misinformation abounds.

As someone who has been conducting research in this area, evaluates and treats both victims and perpetrators, conducts psychological evaluations and screenings of applicants to Catholic seminaries, and has served on child protection committees for the Church at national, regional, and local levels for 30+ years, it is important, in my view, to separate fact from fiction concerning this explosive and highly emotional topic.

While whole books could be written about this topic (and I’ve published three of them since the 1990s) here I’ll address just a few of the major areas of misinformation that gets the most attention in the press about clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Separating fact from fiction is critically needed if we are truly interested in keeping children safe from possible sex offenders inside and outside of the Catholic Church.

Four Important Facts to Keep in Mind

  1. No empirical data exists that suggests that Catholic clerics sexually abuse minors at a level higher than clerics from other religious traditions or from other groups of men who have ready access and power over children (e.g., school teachers, coaches).
  2. Clerical celibacy doesn’t cause pedophilia and sexual crimes against minors.
  3. Homosexual clerics aren’t the cause of pedophilia in the Church.
  4. The Church has used best practices to deal with this issue since 2002.

Continue reading in Psychology Today


  • Thomas G. Plante, PhD, ABPP is the Augustin Cardinal Bea, S.J. University Professor psychology on the faculty of Santa Clara Universityand adjunct clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine.
  • Image: Santa Clara University


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