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Open AccessFeature PaperOpinion
Religions 2016, 7(1), 9;

The Politics of Clerical Sexual Abuse

Department of Political Science and Public Affairs, Seton Hall University, 400 South Orange Avenue, South Orange, NJ 07079, USA
Academic Editor: Timothy A. Byrnes
Received: 13 November 2015 / Revised: 26 December 2015 / Accepted: 30 December 2015 / Published: 8 January 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Catholic Bishops in US Politics)
Full-Text   |   PDF [192 KB, uploaded 8 January 2016]


This article examines the complex politics surrounding the Catholic Bishops’ responses to clerical sexual abuse in the United States from the first, public revelations of the scandal in Boston in 2002 to the present. It asks a compelling leadership question on three levels: how did the Bishops respond politically as individual diocesan leaders; as members of their canonical organization, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB); and as appointed officials of the Vatican? This article argues that the members of the hierarchy implemented disparate and often conflicting religious and legal responses to clerical sexual abuse in their various roles. They did this by accepting misguided psychological advice, relying on traditional religious exemptions, attempting to implement confusing institutional policies, and usually mounting ineffective legal challenges to canon law in civil courts. These actions reflected hierarchical ignorance and arrogance as well as a political underestimation of the compelling state interest to protect the safety of children over religious concerns to insure the autonomy of the Church. View Full-Text
Keywords: Catholic; clerical; sexual abuse; American Bishops Catholic; clerical; sexual abuse; American Bishops
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Formicola, J.R. The Politics of Clerical Sexual Abuse. Religions 2016, 7, 9.

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