Psychologist provides analysis of Catholic church's sex abuse scandal

Psychologist provides analysis of Catholic church’s sex abuse scandal

At the height of the clergy sex abuse scandal in 2002, Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea urged the nation’s Catholic bishops to lead “the revitalization and restoration of souls” damaged by sexual abuse.
A decade later, Frawley-O’Dea painted a far less-hopeful portrait of the Catholic Church’s handling of sexual abuse during a 45-minute talk Thursday at Canisius College.
Frawley-O’Dea - a Charlotte, N.C., trauma psychologist and author of two books about the church’s sexual abuse crisis - spelled out how a culture of “clerical narcissism” resulted in a diminished capacity for empathy for sex abuse victims, particularly in church hierarchs more concerned with status and the accoutrements of their offices than with leadership and pastoralism.
“There’s a sense that morality comes with the status, rather the morality is something you’ve got to keep working at,” Frawley-O’Dea said during a 20-minute question-and-answer session that followed her talk.

…She has also become a frequent contributor to the National Catholic Reporter, a weekly newspaper focusing on issues in the Catholic Church.


I am not sure what is mean by the assertion that prelates are more concerned with “status and accoutrements” of their offices. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’d say bishops in modern clerical suits is kind of visually emaciated compared to what was worn regularly in the past. I also don’t remember the last time I’ve seen a magnificently decorated bishop’s office or chancery, either.

The pomp and circumstance of bishops and cardinals now is extremely low if you ask me.

I was hoping for more psychological analysis of the pedophilia crimes themselves––this is an attempt to explain the “cover-up” extant among some bishops. Also, be wary of anyone writing for the National Catholic Reporter ––*they have been known to write borderline heretical pieces, if not downright heretical.

I can only speak from experience from being a victim of gang-rape and torture at gunpoint, not caused by clerical abuse. Speaking in private with a priest and email correspondence with a recently retired archbishop. I’ve only received empathy and compassion like a handshake. For the most part I’ve had my Catholic Faith to fall back on which sustains me in God’s grace coupled with the sacramental participation within the Catholic Church.

My former archbishop told me the Church is not specially equipped in helping victims of rape from clerical abuse from a psychological vantage point and leaves that specialty to secular psychiatrist and psychologist. For the most part it should come to no surprise that the entire Catholic Church is reeled in complete utter shock and embarrassment over the media coverage of clerical abuse which exist in cases in my own archdiocese.

Personally I don’t believe clerical abuse of sexual assault is only something newly discovered and made popularly known in the last 50-70 years. Pretty well its as old as the beginnings of the Church itself given human weakness, not to mention other religious denominations Christian or otherwise, who share the same guilt, and rarely get near as much secular media coverage as the Catholic Church.

I believe the psychologist assessment of : the church’s sexual abuse crisis - spelled out how ("a culture of “clerical narcissism”) resulted in a diminished capacity for empathy for sex abuse victims, particularly in church hierarchs more concerned with status and the accoutrements of their offices than with leadership and pastoralism. is totally correct.

I have my own opinions on the Lack of help from the Catholic Church resources within the Diocesan community which is why I keep to myself. Probably emotional vulnerability and an overall lack of trust in the expertise of the Church itself lacking professional knowledge how to help victims of rape. So far no help has been offered which really doesn’t bother me.

A Responsible Pastoral Ministry Diocesan Policy on the Prevention of Violence Toward Vulnerable Persons is a necessary security for all parishes. Such protects both vulnerable persons and the clergy and staff itself.


Interesting. I DO think there is a certain ‘detachment’ between the “higher-ups” and the common lay-person, and I really don’t think the hierarchy understood the seriousness of the issue. Like anyone else, the hierarchy doesn’t want anyone telling them how to run their house and took the attitude of; “We’ll deal with it. Nothing to see here.” It truly felt as though the hierarchy cared nothing for the boys and only about how they looked in the public eye.

As I’ve said in other threads; I am way beyond angry about the whole scandal, and the way it was handled. The fact that many of the bishops (and especially Cardinal Law here in Boston) knew about it, and covered it up is inexcusable. I have no idea why the offending priests weren’t handed over to the police. Was it to save the Church from embarrassment? I ask you… which is the more embarrassing: handing a priest over to the police, or having thousands of boys scarred for life? It was only after extreme public pressure that Law was removed from his post and whisked away to Rome. He never faced prosecution here in Boston.

I truly think that some of the bishops need to reflect on their priorities, and the way candidates for the priesthood are screened needs a good long review. I am sick of the Catholic Church being a punchline.

this is what you zero in on?:confused:

Troubling , thank you for the courage to bring this to our attention.

Yes. The charge of clerical narcissism of the hierarchs is illustrated, according to the excerpt, supposedly by the bishops’ concern with the “status and the accoutrements of their offices [rather] than with leadership and pastoralism.” My point was that I do not see too many bishops concerned with the status and accoutrements–indulgent parties, very expensive clothing, travel in style, etc–of their office. By contrast, I think most bishops are extremely humble, almost to a fault, except when required show off a bit as in liturgical celebrations.

Narcissism is a psychological affliction, but these types of people also show outward signs of it in their behavior, manner, dress and other things. I do not see these things.

While people talk and talk and talk more children get abused at the hands of drunk boyfriends, oversexed older teens and deviant step-fathers.

I suppose its how you chose to define behavior, manner and dress. Given the increase in clergy members in the last two decades who don’t what to be seen in public with their collar in a society that has become wildly secularized, its not difficult to see how some in the clergy have become acclimated to such strong influences.

and by teachers in the public school system.

I’m so sorry that happened to you Chris. I hope you have recieved some counseling. Please take care.

:cool: Touche.

You have heard only one side of this issue through the liberal media who “hate” The Church.

FACT Your child is 4 times more likely to be molested by their teacher than a priest! But they, the media, don’t report this huge problem/concern because it does not furthur their cause to build hate towards The Church.

FACT Until more recent times. The average person, parent, or Priest had no clue how to handle sexual misconduct. The average person often did nothing as they didn’t know what to do, & found it too embarassing to deal with. Bishops & priests often dealing with suspicion,s with out proof, even though horrified, they didn’t know how to “fix it”. They sent them to psychologists, counseling, and classes thinking this would help them conqure their sin. Then reassigned them to other places to get them away from the source of “temptation”. Often times they were assigned desk jobs away from the public.

FACT Most of the molestation of minors actually involved gay priests having sexual relationships with teenage boys! The gay life style is predatory towards young boys.** Of course the media would NEVER report anything negative about the gay lifestyle,**

FACT Married men have a much higher molestation rate then Catholic Priests. Compared to the general population sexual abuse is statisticly low in the Priest hood. The media have lied to you!

FACT Our whole society lacks morals and self control, while celebrating ever increasing sexual liberty which the media promotes!!! and The Church discourages at every turn.

FACT This attack on The Church has had wonderful results. Policies at every level have been enacted. We now have zero tolerance for inappropriate sexual conduct, and have immediate mandatory reporting to police & Church leadership in place. The Church is now hyper vigilant towards protecting our children. No adult is ever allowed to be alone with a child period! I had to go through ten times the training to “Protect God’s Children” to be able to volunteer for The Church, than the training I went through to have foster children living with me!

FACT Sexual abuse is always wrong, and horrible to contemplate, let alone live with. However as a survivor, I know it is possible to heal & move on and become a stronger, healthier, more forgiving, better person. We have moved beyond the shame into action to protect each other from all abuse! :thumbsup:

I never liked the justification practice of saying, “hey they do it too”

I think we need to expect better of oursleves, each other and our leaders.

Sensitive Subject alright. My mind moves in all directions here.

I will say, I never lived near the place but I use to drive by once in a while, a sort of “rehab” place in Northern New Mexico and my heart always felt heavy when I drove by, I know they treated alchoholism but I don’t know what else.

This is so, to basics, it is not a good excuse however to the Vultures in the media, it might be worthy of some reflection. We also need to remember the media it seems likes to play this up.

apologies,misunderstood your

I never once justified sexual abuse! In fact I stated it was always wrong! Just pointing out that MY Church is being unjustly demonized in the media. The vast majority of Priests have sacrificed their lives to bring hope, healing, & the Sacraments to people. They have made the world a much better place.

The media has people believing that most priests are molesters which is absurd. Women & children cross the street, so as not to walk by a Priest. These good Godly men have been, shamed, attacked, beaten up, spat upon, screamed at, threatoned, and rejected with out ever having done any thing wrong.

I’m saying sexual misconduct is much more prevalent in general society. The Church is cleaning up it’s mess. NOW it’s time to hold others accountable, and protect children from other groups of people who abuse %400 more often! Be fair & care about all children!

Control, dominence, unmanaged sexual repression. A deep analysis may be required for some but is it difficult to reach a reasonable conclusion when the guilty parties are in a uniquely single profession and in a position of authority.

I admit I’m not a huge fan of secular media exploding some stories out of proportion however; any weight of guilt the global Catholic Church has brought upon herself through scandal of sexual abuse of children or anyone else, the Church carries her inexcusable serious sinful deeds by her own accord like any other religious denomination. Its not a time to simply excuse the Church’s shame and throw it under some clerical bureaucratic carpet; but spiritually building up the Church by finding effective concrete ways of healing its deep wounds and more importantly those first she has placed serious mistrust and afflicted.
This is a monumental task made conjointly responsible by the Catholic Church’s clergy and her faithful.

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