Does the Catholic Church attract sexual abusers…or create them?

In the wake of the $660 million settlement for sexual abuse by priests in the RC Archdiocese of Los Angeles I have seen dozens of articles and blogs asking the question of whether the Catholic vow of celibacy plays any part in what seems to be the disproportionate number of Catholic priests accused or convicted of sexual abuse.

I believe that the institutional structure of the Catholic Church provides an opportunity for pedophile priests to attract, groom, manipulate and abuse their victims (see also the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Doe v. Bennett).

I had not considered that there was something about the Roman Catholic Church that might actually contribute to the creation of sexual abusers.

Until I read an article in the American Chronicle by Dr. Richard Cravatts. He suggests that: ” the very process of accepting celibacy and entering the priesthood at an emotionally immature age level predispose priests to conflicting notions about human sexuality…”

Dr. Cravatts quotes Dr. Donna Markham, the president of Southdown Institute in Ontario, Canada. Southdown is a treatment center for Catholic priests with what are referred to as “boundary issues” a euphemism for sexual abusers. Some of the priest sexual abusers that I have sued received treatment (but unfortunately not a “cure”) at Southdown.

  “Many priests entered seminary before they reached mature psychosexual development,” says Markham. “For some men, the institutional life in the same-sex environment may have served to further postpone social and sexual development. For these men, at the age of their ordination in their mid- to late twenties, they were intellectually and physically adults, but emotionally they remained far younger.”

I recommend anyone the article to anyone interested in an objective discussion of clergy sexual abuse.


5 Responses to “Does the Catholic Church attract sexual abusers…or create them?”

  1. 1 Jim Ellsworth July 26, 2007 at 1:05 am

    I have always suspected that boys of high school age who enter the seminary in their freshman year and spend four year in an exclusively male enviorment are sexually and emotionally stunted. I believe that this also causes an abnormal psychological development
    which could develop into a homosexual lifestyle at an early or even later age. In many cases they are unable to enter into a stable
    relationship with women. This can be seen in their early years as a priest when women are treated in a demeaning way. I am generalizing here because not all turn out this way. Men who enter the seminary later in life have less and even very little sexual and psychological
    problems and can deal effectively with their emotional problems.

  2. 2 kay July 26, 2007 at 5:35 am

    Yup. Also pedophiles knew that they could roam free as priests so they entered the priesthood– knowing they’d have access to children with no punishment.

  3. 4 John McKiggan July 26, 2007 at 9:56 pm


    Most of the studies that I am aware of conclude that one is born homosexual (at least that is what my friends who are gay tell me). That is why I never considered that there might be something about the structure of the Church that contributed to deviant sexual behavior. I always thought the power of the Church over it’s members provided “cover” for pedophiles. After reading Cravatt’s article, I realize it isn’t that simple.


  4. 5 John McKiggan July 26, 2007 at 10:04 pm


    I think you are correct that the Church provided an aura of power and authority to priests who were already prone to deviant behavior before entering the Seminary.

    I believe the point Dr. Cravatts’ article makes is that the seminary education, coupled with the male dominant heirarchy of the Catholic Church may actually inhibit priest’s psychosexual development and contribute to the cause of the deviant sexual behavior.


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