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Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: Revisiting the Rotten Apples Explanation

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice and Behavior Volume: 35 Issue: 5 Dated: May 2008 Pages: 658-678
Michael D. White; Karen J. Terry
Date Published
May 2008
21 pages
This article uses Kappeler, Sluder, and Alpert's (1998) police deviance framework in order to characterize and understand the Catholic church sex abuse scandal, drawing comparisons to the intentional use of excessive force by police.
Data on the nature and scope of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church show the importance of organizational management in addressing the problem of child sexual abuse by priests, using internal and external mechanisms for control. Many of the mechanisms to control sexual deviance being implemented by the Catholic Church are similar to those implemented by the police to control officer's use of excessive force. These include internal control mechanisms that include the careful selection of personnel followed by training, supervision that includes requiring accountability for unacceptable actions, guidelines for appropriate behavior in risky situations, and the establishment of internal affairs units that will encourage victim reporting and prompt investigation of complaints against priests. Other internal control mechanisms for the Catholic Church are an early warning system that collects and analyzes data on problem behaviors by priests, as well as changing the subculture, such that both potential offender and potential victims know the Church is serious about ensuring a safe environment for people who participate in Church activities. The Catholic Church can also use external control mechanisms similar to those used by police. These include intervention under criminal law and criminal justice processing, the threat of civil liability, and the use of citizen oversight boards which act independently of the Church's ordained hierarchy. 2 tables, 3 notes and 64 references