Yes, this idea is perpetrated by certain ex-Catholics, born-again secularists. It contains more than a hint of misogyny.
Clergy are human beings, there are good ones and bad ones and everyone in between. My dad was class president of his Catholic school (HS) and he used to tell me about this certain nun that put the fear of God in him and the other boys and boy was she strict, etc., etc. Now you should my father is about six feet, big strong guy. So years later we are visiting some of aunts of ours who were in the same order as that infamous sister of his youth in the conventual retirement home. So while we're there, this little nun, oh about 4 foot 10, with a sweet wrinkly face and big smile comes up and says "oh -----" (using a dimunitive of my dad's name), "is this your boy?" You guessed it, it was the same nun. Maybe she looked bigger when my father was a boy. :D
I do think the old-time sisters and the priests were tough and strict. (I know of quite a few priests from that era who were golden gloves boxers.) But I think this was needed. We forget the "good old days" were pretty hard, especially back in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. They served working class neighbors were there were gangs, violence, family problems, drunkeness, etc. Those aren't new problems and despite what folks think the Irish, Italians, Poles and others had just as many social problems as inner city minorities today. These sisters and priests were fighting a real battle and they kept a lot of kids on the straight and narrow that would have gotten into major trouble. Sadly, the underclass today has no such group of advocates. It was tough love and it worked.
That's a story you'll never hear in most history books.