Successfully reported this slideshow.
We use your LinkedIn profile and activity data to personalize ads and to show you more relevant ads. You can change your ad preferences anytime.

Catholic Clergy Sex Abuse: Scandal & Crisis, Prevention & Healing


Published on

This presentation was prepared for a Major Superiors Leadership Conference. The goal is to raise awareness about the situation, educate about circumstances and situations where abuse can happen, develop skills for young women religious (sisters) specifically to deal with situations, and prompt major superiors to develop protocols for reporting and healing. Resources are listed at the end, including films dealing with clergy sex abuse and links to educational and policy resources.

Published in: Education
  • Be the first to comment

Catholic Clergy Sex Abuse: Scandal & Crisis, Prevention & Healing

  2. 2. A NOTE ABOUT THIS PRESENTATION  This presentation was created by Sr. Rose Pacatte, FSP, D.Min. in the USA, in response to a request from a regional superior of a community in a developing country. It is for leadership and formation directors. Rose consulted Sr. Kathleen Bryant, RSC, who worked for 21 years in the vocation office for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles screening men for the seminary and for five years as Director of Seminarians. Sr Kathleen has also worked with victims of human trafficking and sexual abuse for 18 years. Sr. Suzanne Mayer, IHM, Professor of Pastor Counseling, Neumann University, Philadelphia also contributed to this presentation. Please feel free to make changes and adapt visuals, examples, terminology to your own situation. For any questions please consult for more resources and information about best practices.
  4. 4. OUTLINE: CLERGY SEX ABUSE: SCANDAL & CRISIS PREVENTION & HEALING 1. The Reality 2. History 3. The Most Vulnerable 4. What to Teach about Clergy Sex Abuse 5. How Do We Prevent Clergy Sex Abuse in Religious Life? 6. Healing 7. Resources
  5. 5. 1. REALITY: CLERGY SEX ABUSE IS NOT ONLY A CATHOLIC ISSUE The abuse of children is a worldwide crisis. But because we Catholics say we are better, that our teaching is true and good, that our Church is the true Church, the scandal is greater.
  6. 6. 2. HISTORY: THE CLERGY ABUSE SCANDAL BREAKS IN THE CATHOLIC WORLD  1985 Clergy sex abuse revealed in the USA  1993 Former priest James Porter arrested and convicted  2002 News that Cardinal Law of Boston had covered up for abusive priests and transferred them, rather than report them to the police. This results in the Cardinal’s resignation  2000+ Clergy sex abuse incidents uncovered in Canada, Ireland, Australia, Argentina  2010 Clergy sex abuse scandal spreads to other countries  "The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010," (in 2011) reports the findings of a study mandated in 2002 under the U.S. Catholic bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.” (See Resource section below.)  2017 Crisis in Chile  2018 More clergy sex abuse and cover-up revealed in the USA
  7. 7. 3. WHO ARE THE MOST VULNERABLE TO CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE?  Children and females (with male victims in the majority)  Those who are inclined to please authority figures  Those who have a deep respect for the clergy that can lead to silence or making excuses for clergy  Those who lack self-confidence or do not use their voices because  Do/did not have a sense of self or identity apart from their role as a religious person  Grew up in poverty  Grew up without security: e.g. from war/armed conflict zones  Are orphans and refugees  Are socially isolated or unable to engage socially due to family circumstances, lack of education  Have been previously abused regardless of their social or cultural background
  8. 8. 4. WHAT TO TEACH ABOUT CLERGY SEX ABUSE (HOW TO TEACH IT IS SOMETHING EACH COMMUNITY MUST DISCERN BUT IT BEGINS WITH COURAGE, RESPECT & HONESTY) The purpose of teaching about clergy sex abuse is to prevent and stop it happening by building confidence, informing and educating the sisters. The purpose is also to create healthy and mature ministerial interactions through awareness and creating safe environments.
  9. 9. WHAT IS CLERGY SEX ABUSE? When the clergy (deacons, priests or bishops) sexually molest (touch, kiss, fondle), rape minors,(or members of other vulnerable populations*) force them to have oral sex or any sexual contact When the clergy harass minors and women and members of vulnerable populations* (including postulants, novices, sisters, seminarians) sexually When the clergy “groom” their potential victims by promising or giving them gifts and favors * Vulnerable populations include persons who are racial or ethnic minorities, children, elderly, socioeconomically disadvantaged, underinsured or those with certain medical conditions.
  10. 10. WHAT IS CLERGY SEX ABUSE? When clergy use their power to threaten their victims (and families) or tell them not to tell their mothers or fathers; When clergy threaten postulants, novices or professed sisters to remain silent and not tell their superior; When the clergy does not report sexual abuse to their superiors or civil authorities; You can include teachers and catechists, anyone who works for the church and has access to children and vulnerable adults as “clergy.”
  11. 11. WHAT IS CLERGY SEX ABUSE? When no one takes action to bring the perpetrator to justice; When abusers are protected by silence; When a victim is not listened to or believed; When a victim is told to keep silence, a secret, so as not to shame her(or his) family, church, school, or congregation.
  12. 12. HUMAN AND CATHOLIC TEACHING SAYS: SEXUAL ACTIVITY IS GOOD AND RIGHT ONLY WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF MARRIAGE Respectful The good of the other is the intention There is consent each time There is openness to life
  13. 13. HUMAN AND CATHOLIC TEACHING SAYS: Outside of marriage, all sexual contact, including verbal harassment, sexual acts between an adult & a child, an older (teen) child and a younger child, or any adult and a non-consenting adult, are always wrong and immoral. THIS IS SEXUAL ABUSE.
  15. 15. NO ONE HAS A RIGHT TO TOUCH YOUR BODY EVER WITHOUT YOUR EXPRESS CONSENT. YOUR BODY IS GOOD AND HOLY AND BELONGS ONLY TO YOU AND GOD. Prevention tip: Explain that, during visits to the doctor or a dentist, a female nurse should always be present as well.
  16. 16. HOW DO CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSERS PREY ON SISTERS? Grooming Threats Shaming Isolating Inappropriate touching Communicating secretly
  17. 17. HOW TO IDENTIFY GROOMING BEHAVIOR Perpetrators prepare their victims. They . . .  Single people out - for special attention, friendship, relationship; may take photos and give gifts to make them feel “special”  Cross boundaries - May test personal boundaries by following them into an empty room, staring at the person’s body, telling inappropriate stories or jokes to see how far they can go  Touch – they may touch a hand or an arm, pat someone’s face to test boundaries; they may move from innocent touching to sexual touching and make it seem like an accident
  18. 18. HOW TO IDENTIFY GROOMING BEHAVIOR, CONT.  Intimidation – once the abuser has crossed boundaries, he will warn the victim; “No one will believe you” or “If you tell you will shame your family,” “If you tell I will deny it, and you will be called a liar” and “If you tell, they will send you home.”  Sexual predators and abusers will send sexual texts or emails or try to play a sexualized game; show sexual photos;  They will keep their communications secret and see if the person will tell. If they do not tell, they will continue.
  19. 19. HOW DO WE PREVENT CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE IN RELIGIOUS LIFE? Empower Empower them by teaching them appropriate skills Believe Believe them Listen Listen to those reporting abuse; listen deeply Teach When you train them to work in ministry, teach them how to identify situations – and avoid situations - that can lead to harm Form Form the young religious to be confident women
  20. 20. IS THERE A CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE PROBLEM IN RELIGIOUS LIFE? Yes. Ongoing reports from many countries have revealed this.
  21. 21. CREATE A STRATEGY FOR REPORTING ABUSE 1 Create a plan for reporting abuse; identify sisters within the community who can and will deal with the abuser. 2 Don’t report to bishop or priest as the first step to deal with the situation; they may be the abusers or may protect them. 3 Do not sacrifice a sister to protect the congregation or the church or school or hospital because the sister deserves justice and the community deserves to be safeguarded from abusers.
  22. 22. ALWAYS BELIEVE THE YOUNG SISTER(S)  In the past some superiors of women’s religious communities have not believed the sisters; they have covered up for seminarians, priests and bishops rather than reveal and report criminal sexual behavior. They have kept silent. This results in continuing abuse, and the spread of abuse.
  23. 23. HOW TO PREVENT CLERGY SEX ABUSE IN RELIGIOUS LIFE: SUGGESTIONS Identify and avoid Identify and avoid the occasions and situations Don’t give Don’t give young sisters assignments where they are vulnerable Don’t send Don’t send a sister alone to work in a sacristy, church, school, rectory Don’t send Don’t send sisters alone to be housekeepers or cooks Don’t ask Don’t ask them to provide a letter of recommendation from a priest (they may ask for sexual favors in return). Letters can come from female teachers or others.
  24. 24. HOW TO PREVENT CLERGY SEX ABUSE IN RELIGIOUS LIFE: SUGGESTIONS, CONT. Don’t send Don’t send them alone to deliver a letter, parcel or message. Use technology whenever possible. Don’t enter Instruct them do not enter a house, office or room where they will be alone with a member of the clergy; leave the letter or package at the door Make sure For spiritual direction, if possible, make sure the sister is visible from the hallway and choose religious women to be spiritual directors. Sisters can always stand up and walk away, even in confession! Teach Teach the young sisters to say something if harassment or abuse occurs, to use their voice for good, to speak up. Teach them not to keep secrets about abuse even if the abuser tells them to do so.
  25. 25. IF SOMEONE TELLS YOU THEY HAVE BEEN SEXUALLY ABUSED BY A CLERIC OR CHURCH WORKER:  In case of rape or a sexual attack, convince the person that she must go with you to the hospital immediately;  Be sure the person who was abused is safe;  Document each step; obtain copies of tests and reports;  File a police report;  Then report the abuse to church authorities.
  26. 26. PRACTICE ROLE PLAYING  Role playing means to act, to imagine, to pretend the part of particular persons or characters as a technique for training in life skills.  After the scenario is acted out talk about it.
  27. 27. PRACTICE ROLE PLAYING #1  Choose a sister to play a priest in face-to-face confession or spiritual direction.  When ”he” reaches out to caress a sister’s face, or gets up and walks behind her and tries to massage her shoulders, she stands up and walks out without saying a word.  She tells her superior.  She does not return to this priest for confession or spiritual direction even if he calls her or emails her. She does not respond.  Her superior believes her and takes action according to the established protocol. SCENARIO:
  28. 28. PRACTICE ROLE PLAYING #2 SCENARIO:  Choose one sister to play a novice and one to play the novice director.  The novice goes to the novice director and tells/shows a suggestive (sexual) email a priest (seminarian or bishop) sent to her and sends another asking her to meet with her in the rectory because he has a gift for her.  The novice director listens, asks if there were other emails, tells her not to respond or meet with the priest again.  She then shows the email to the major superior who takes action (according to the protocol in place.)
  29. 29. PRACTICE ROLE PLAYING #3 SCENARIO: A professed sister who is younger than you and a university student comes to you and says a young priest student has asked her to meet him in a vacant house (or classroom) to talk about spiritual things where no one will bother them. What advice do you give her? What should she do? (It is ok for them to talk! But in an open place like a coffee shop) Ask her for three good and specific reasons why she thinks avoiding vacant places is a good and prudent thing to do. This entire scenario really happened; when the sister called and told the priest she would meet him at KFC rather than the vacant house, he became angry showing his intentions were perhaps not good.
  30. 30. TO BUILD CONFIDENCE: TRUST YOUR FEMALE INTUITION!  If it does not feel right, you have a right to stand up and walk out of any situation in which your personal space is violated: confession, spiritual direction, even if you are sitting next to an authority person at a meal - or any situation that makes you uncomfortable. Tell the superior.
  31. 31. HEALING FROM CLERGY SEXUAL ABUSE  Begins by listening and believing the sister  Avoid shaming and blaming the victim  Follow protocols  Provide therapy  Spiritual and emotional support from the community  Consult Virtus Online
  32. 32. RESOURCES BE PROPHETIC: THE BEST WAY TO STOP SEXUAL ABUSE IS TO SPEAK OUT AND SHINE A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS Sexual abusers stay in the dark. They want you to be silent and stay in the dark, too. Only light will cancel the darkness.
  33. 33. NADIA JAMIL, ACTRESS  “I was four when I was first abused sexually. In college it blew out of proportion. People tell me not to talk to respect my family’s honour. Is my family’s honour packed in my body? I am a proud, strong, loving survivor. No shame on me or my kids. Only pride for being me.” “When I sexually abused it was by my Kari Sahab, my driver and then by a highly educated elite family’s son, now, a happily married business man in London. It’s across the board. Men abuse across the board. My family still wants me to stay silent. But the shame IS NOT MINE! Never ever.”
  34. 34. REASSURE THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN ABUSED: “IT IS NEVER YOUR FAULT YOU WERE ABUSED.” “IT IS NOT YOUR SHAME OR YOUR FAMILY’S SHAME.” The shame belongs to the abuser, the perpetrator. Religious superiors must never cover up for any abusers: bishops, priests, seminarians, no matter what.
  36. 36. THE CAUSES AND CONTEXT OF SEXUAL ABUSE OF MINORS BY CATHOLIC PRIESTS IN THE UNITED STATES, 1950-2010 A Report Presented to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops by the John Jay College Research Team
  37. 37. ME TOO MOVEMENT The #MeToo Movement (on social media first) started in 2017 when Hollywood actresses (and actors) began reporting sexual abuse in the workplace, revealing that it is a widespread problem.
  39. 39. FILMS ABOUT CLERGY SEX ABUSE (PLEASE PREVIEW BEFORE SHOWING TO A GROUP) • Doubt (fiction; USA) • Spotlight (based on true story; USA) • Deliver Us From Evil (documentary; USA/Ireland) • Calvary (fictional; Ireland) • Boys of St. Vincent (based on true story; Canada) • For more titles see
  40. 40. CLERGY SEX ABUSE: SCANDAL & CRISIS PREVENTION & HEALING SHINING LIGHT ON THE DARKNESS Sr. Rose Pacatte, FSP, D. Min. Pauline Center for Media Studies Culver City, CA 90230 © Daughter of St Paul 2018 With SPECIAL THANKS to Sr. Kathleen Bryant, RSC and Sr. Suzanne Mayer, IHM)