Corruption of a Sacred Institution: Sexual Abusing Priests

Gina Talavera*




 * Gina Talavera is a Graduate Assistant in the Department of Criminal Justice at UNLV.  This paper was part of the requirements in CRJ 712 (Seminar on Punishment and Corrections) in the fall, 2013. 




 The following paper will explain the dynamics of the abuse by priests that has been discovered to take place in the Catholic Church. It will begin by introducing the Nature and Scope Study that was initiated by a team from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. It will then elaborate on the characteristics of the abusers and their victims. The reaction of the Catholic Church and the costs of this crime will be explained. The paper will also incorporate an attempt to explain such deviant behaviors with a “rotten apple theory”. Lastly, it will suggest possible policy implications for the future.



Corruption of a Sacred Institution: Sexual Abusing Priests

Imagine that one of the institutions in your life that you hold in the highest regard and also acts as the foundation for your belief system suddenly falls apart by violating your purity and stability. Unfortunately this depiction refers to the sexually deviant acts that many members of the Catholic Church engage in with their followers who have whole-heartedly placed their trust in them. Terry elaborates on the obscurity of the topic by explaining that “Although academic research on child sexual abuse is substantial, there has been, up to date, no population-based research on the characteristics or patterns of behavior of sexual abuse in any single population” (2008, p. 552). The emergence of information on this issue has finally allowed progress to be made with the victims of this abuse.

When it comes to victimization, America tends to look the other way and focus more on punishing the deviant rather than providing assistance and recovery to the victim. Especially with the topic of sexual abuse, the victim loses their voice in the criminal justice system. The many stages of the criminal justice process intimidate the victim from coming forward and shedding light on their victimization in the first place. They speak to multiple criminal justice agencies that take part in assisting with the possible conviction of the perpetrator.  They become re-victimized by having to retell their story over and over to each new face. Unfortunately, a lot of the time the defendant is not convicted after this long, traumatizing process due to weak evidence.  This in turn, could be humiliating to the victim.

The victim not only faces the problem externally, but they also deal with it internally. The experience is more traumatizing because of the fact that it occurred in a trusted, religious institution. The process becomes even more difficult to face for a victim when the perpetrator is a person that was highly trusted in their lives. The victim will experience a form of shock or feel dubious about their encounter because for the most part they are in subconscious disbelief about the trust that was violated. This applies for normal cases that involve a regular perpetrator and victim, but when the event takes place within the walls of the church as “sanctuary molestation,” this shock might become more intensified for the victim (Van Wormer & Berns, 2004, p. 53). The priests in the Catholic Church represent a pure, human form of the closest contact with God. If this symbolic person suddenly becomes the worst nightmare for someone, they might experience a feeling of loneliness or anomaly. As stated by Van Wormer & Berns, “The trauma that was inflicted…by this ultimate form of the violation of personal trust has been manifested in depression, addiction, the loss of religious faith, suicide, and attempted murder” (2004, p. 53). They might feel that there are no places to turn to for help or escape since the one institution that inspired their life and community has been shattered by this trauma.

The following paper will further demonstrate how such deviant behavior in the Catholic Church has slipped through the cracks in both the mainstream media and academia and discuss how the issue has come to be revealed through the Nature and Scope study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice (Smith, Rengifo, & Vollman, 2008). It will also elaborate on who the perpetrators and the victims are, along with their demographics. Lastly, the paper will explain how the traumas have psychologically developed in the victim’s lives and the policy implications that arise from the issue.

The Nature and Scope Study: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church Revealed

For many centuries, society blindly followed the Catholic Church without questioning it or imagining that sexual abuse could be taking place behind holy doors. Priests present themselves to the church in a pure manner, usually at a young age. Then, they make a bold decision to refrain from any sexual relationship for the rest of their life in order to guide their followers into spirituality. As White and Terry state, “It is an all-male organization whose members commit to a life of celibacy” (2008, p. 668). Since priests are human, this ideology in and of itself has proven to be a set up for failure, since many priests have fallen into temptation.

The John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York took the initiative to develop a study that would look into the extent of this sexual abuse in the church from 1950 until 2002 (Smith, Rengifo, & Vollman, 2008; Terry, 2008). The study included information for all of the priests and deacons in the entire country (Smith et al. 2008; Terry, 2008). Terry explains that “The aim of the study was to provide a thorough analysis of the extent of the problem with a specific focus on the abusers, those they abused, in what situations the abuse occurred, types of abuse incidents, and financial impact on the Church” (2008, p. 550). The original purpose of the study was to be descriptive about the topic of sexual abuse by priests since it was one of the first to be conducted on the issue. Up until this study, the topic had been obscure and placed on the back burner. Society had a difficult time accepting the reality that many priests had been molesting children and some adults.

Some follow up studies have been conducted which used this newly available data from the Nature and Scope study in order to further understand the phenomenon. Terry elaborates that “…the aim of the supplementary research was to address key issues in more detail, including the estimation of the overall problem of abuse in the Church, patterns of abuse, duration of abusive behavior, priests with one allegation and those with multiple allegations, subgroups of priests with allegations of abuse, and the institutional response to the abuse problem” (2008, p. 550). These attempts to understand the research have allowed for the development of treatment for sexual abusing priests.

The Method of the Nature and Scope Study

The Nature and Scope Study required an extensive amount of time and manpower from the John Jay College team. They reached cooperation by the whole church hierarchy in the United States (Smith et al. 2008; Terry, 2008). Choosing an effective method for conducting the research was critical because it involved the input of the entire country’s church hierarchy. Terry explains that all of the priests were ordered to comply with the study because of the orders given by Bishop Gregory, who was the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) (2008). These orders given by the Bishop were significant because they ensured the initiation of the study. It began in April 2003 when they first mailed out a cover letter to explain the study (Terry, 2008). Rather than having face-to-face interviews with every priest in the country, the John Jay College team decided to use surveys to retain the information that they needed. Terry explains that “Because of a tight time frame for the project, limited resources, and confidentiality issues, it was not possible for the research team to travel to dioceses to personally collect data” (2008, p. 552). Based on these justifications, Terry states that the team mailed out the surveys to each “diocese, eparchy, and religious institute” instead (2008, p. 552).  This mailing method allowed for them to collect all of the information through three separate surveys that they created.

The team decided to use a holistic approach by creating three surveys that would capture each perspective of the story through the lens of the priest (the Diocesan/Order Profile), the Cleric (the Cleric Survey), and the victim (The Victim Survey) (Smith et al. 2008; Terry, 2008). The Diocesan/Order Profile survey consisted of ten questions which asked about demographic information and the scope of the problem. It went into detail about “…the church region, the Catholic population, and the number of parishes within their boundaries” (Terry, 2008, p. 553). The Cleric Survey consisted of seventeen questions and eighteen follow-up questions which addressed the specific sexual abuse issue of each priest. It discussed the history of the priest, the demographic information about the individual who accused the priest, and it inquired about the action taken by the Church towards the behavior (Terry, 2008). Lastly, the Victim Survey consisted of thirty-six questions and eighteen follow up questions which asked about the actual context of the sexual abuse incident, the victim’s gender, age, the type of coercion that was present, whether there were any gifts that were offered, the financial impact to the victim and how the Catholic Church responded to the report (Terry, 2008). The information captured on these surveys would then allow the researchers to divide the information and code the data.

The John Jay College team began coding the allegations and reports that pertained to child sexual abuse by priests within the last fifty years (Smith et al. 2008; Terry, 2008).  The team collected the following data about each report: information about the offenses, information about the abusers, information about the victims, and information about the financial impact it had on the dioceses and the religious community (Smith et al. 2008; Terry, 2008). The information about the offenses would further address the context in which the crime occurred, such as the location, time, the specific offense, and the amount of times it allegedly occurred (Terry, 2008). The information about the abusers would address demographics regarding the priest such as their job responsibilities, the length of time they have been in service, history of their own sexual victimization, their psychological standing, the amount of victims they had molested, and their age of onset of abuse (Terry, 2008). The information about the victims discussed demographics about the victims including their age, their family life, their relationship to the priest, the length of time between the abuse and the report, and who they decided to report the abuse to (Terry, 2008). Lastly, information about the financial impact merely looks into the costs that the abuse has caused on the church and the religious community (Terry, 2008).

To ensure the success and reliability of the study, “…the research team provided anonymous telephone and e-mail support 5 days a week from 10 AM to 6 PM., adding an 800 number during the summer months” (Terry, 2008, p. 554). Also, written and videotape instructions were clearly provided in each packet which elaborated on how to fill out each survey or obtain help if needed. Another method used to increase the reliability was a checks and balance system in which the research team would review the phone calls and responses given by each team member to ensure that there was uniformity. A Web site was also created which included frequently asked questions and answers based off of the most common questions that they received through their anonymous hotline. Others measures were taken to protect the validity and confidentiality of the study in order for the candid results to become useful.

The Results of the Nature and Scope Study

The results were anxiously awaited upon after about a year of collecting the data. This was because of the fact that no other study had been conducted which mirrored the Nature and Scope Study, while it also incorporated the Catholic Church’s input on sexual abuse. The time period that was captured to have the most sexual abuse by priests was during the 1970’s. The John Jay College team concluded that between the years 1950 and 2002, there were 4,392 priests that had allegations of sexual abuse which is about 4% of current practicing priests (Smith et al. 2008; Terry, 2008). From this number, they found about 10,667 victims that reported them (Terry, 2008). According to Terry, they also found that since not all of the allegations were formal, there were 3,000 other potential victims that did not come forward (2008). Some of the financial costs to the Church include “…$572 million for victim compensation, treatment for the victim and priest, and attorney costs”, along with about one billion dollars of civil litigation expenses (Terry, 2008, p. 557). These dramatic results were eye-opening for the researchers, the Church, and the community.

Characteristics of the Abusers

Sexual abuse is not a new phenomenon within the Catholic Church, but what makes it exceptional is that the abusers and their victims are incomparable to the common non-clerical scenario. “Most priests are White, as are a significant majority of bishops and cardinals in the United States, despite the massive growth in the Hispanic Catholic population in the United States” according to White and Terry (2008, p. 668). Perillo explains that “It is apparent that this subgroup of sexual abusers differs from the general abuser population in terms of basic background information such as education, IQ, and psychological history” (2008, p. 604). The priests who were discovered to be abusing victims ranged from ages 18 to 90 (Terry, 2008). Almost half of the sample obtained from the Nature and Scope Study were most actively abusing during the ages of 30 through 39. Perillo elaborates that most of the priests had a similar profile in terms of how long their sexual abusing career lasted, which consisted of about 1 to 8 years (2008). He also points out that “…priests who were younger at the first allegation of sexual abuse, had older victims on average, and had a history of substance abuse were more strongly associated with having all male victims” (2008, p. 610). Perhaps the priests’ bad habits were merely a projection of their own abuse when they were younger.

Through the Clerical Surveys, the research team was able to determine many background factors of the priests themselves. For example, Terry explains how prevalent the abuse was for the priests, “…the personnel files indicate that 274 of the abusive priests were themselves victimized, with 40 experiencing physical abuse, 178 sexual abuse, 20 physical and sexual abuse, 32 emotional abuse, and 4 an undisclosed type of abuse” (2008, p. 560). Most priests that were sexually victimized were most likely to abuse all males only (Perillo, 2008). Many of the priests that have been sexually victimized themselves admitted to having an alcohol problem (89%). These traumas within their own personal lives manifested into a repeat offending cycle (Terry, 2008).

For some priests having one victim was not satisfying enough. Repeat sexual abusing occurs when there is less of a chance of being reported (because of the younger victims) and when all of the victims are male (whom will be less likely to come forward about the abuse). Perillo explains the dynamics of having multiple victims versus one by stating that “…younger cleric age at onset of abuse, having all male victims, use of threats, substance abuse, having been sexually victimized, and using threats towards victims all helped distinguish repeat sexual abusers from those with only one victim” (2008, p. 609). Other issues that the priests encountered included: being involved in sexual relationships with adults, substance abuse, health problems, criminal charges, and mental problems. The trauma that they had once experienced was in turn transferred to their victims.

Media Accounts

The media has slowly begun to reveal several cases of priests that have been caught in sexually deviant acts with their victims. For example, in Philadelphia, PA there was a case of a priest named William Lynn in April 2011 who was facing a grand jury because of his sexual assault and rape charges. This was only one of four priests in Philadelphia that year. Unfortunately, the archdiocese was attempting to cover up the cases and provide the best council, which frustrated the jury. “Despite the promises made at the height of the sex abuse crisis nearly a decade ago, the leadership of the church on both a local and national level has failed to deal forthrightly with the clergy abuse crisis” (National Catholic Reporter, p.1).

Along with this example, there was another Reverend in Boston named John J. Geoghan who “…serially molested young boys for years while his superiors responded by periodically shipping him off for therapy, then recycling him into new parishes without warning parents there” (Cannon, 2002, p. 20). A parishioner apparently also sued him saying that he molested her three sons. There were several daily reports regarding this case on the news such as CNN, Fox, PBS, and by the Boston Globe newspapers. Another priest in Boston named John R. Porter during this time was also convicted for molesting twenty-eight boys (Cannon, 2002). These stories only serve to demonstrate a piece of the long reports of abuse that have been uncovered by devoted reporters, rather than the victims.

Characteristics of the Victims

The most commonly known victims for priests are young boys, as portrayed by the media. Most boys were discovered to be between the ages of 11 to 14 (Terry, 2008). There is a prevalence of these types of victims as Smith et al. explain, “Because more than three quarters of the victims of sexual abuse by priests were boys, it was expected that the Nature and Scope data would sustain this hypothesis about the sexual interest in young men” (2008, p. 580).  Van Wormer supports this with her research which concluded that “twice as many boys as girls experienced such victimization” (2004, p. 54). Some of the paraphilias that could explain such behaviors within these priests include pedophilia[1] and ephebophilia (Smith et al. 2008; Terry, 2008). These types of paraphilias could also be instigated by the newly arising pornographic internet sites. The victims are not only vulnerable based on their age, but also on their level of trust to the priest.

The victimization was possible because of the close relationship that the priest had with the victim. Most priests stated that they had known the victim for a while before the first incidence occurred. Perillo explains that 43% of the victims had a close relationship with the priest (2008).The victims gain their unfortunate label usually through the close-knit relationship that the priest has created with the family. This allows the victim to trust the priest, since he is around family events often and is seen as part of the family. The priest then is enabled to take advantage of the trust and groom the child into the abuse. Once this process begins, the priest could engage in a range of graphic incidents with the child.

Each traumatizing abuse incident that the victim endured was different based on the circumstances. In terms of the context of the abuse incident, the acts varied as Terry lists them in order from most prevalent to the least: touching under victim’s clothes (57%), touching over the victim’s clothes (56%), victim disrobed (27%), cleric performing oral sex (27%), penile penetration or attempt (25%), unspecified sexual abuse (22%), priest disrobed (21%), verbal abuse (19%), victim performed oral sex (18%), mutual masturbation (18%), touching under priest’s clothes (17%), touching over priest’s clothes (15%), and masturbation (14%) (2008, p. 561). These graphic incidents can depict the versatility of tactics that the priests used in their attempts at pleasure. Regardless of whether the acts included violence or not, each individual incident can be enough to emotionally scar a developing child for the rest of their life.

An Attempted Explanation: Rotten Apple Theory

What are the driving forces for this kind of behavior among a highly trusted individual? Do they have no fear of being caught and facing repercussions? These are the common questions that might be asked regarding priests that use their power to sexually abuse their followers. The nature versus nurture debate might be appropriate in this topic. Perhaps the blame for their behavior lies among their biological components that lead them towards such foul actions. Yet, another explanation could be their experiences in life and how they were raised. White and Terry explain that “Child sexual abuse is often considered to be an individual problem or the result of psychological or other abnormalities in the person who commits sexual offenses” (2008, p. 658). Needless to say, perpetrating sexual abuse is such a deep-rooted issue, that it not only embodies biological components, but it also incorporates psychological and sociological components.

These three components (biological, psychological, and sociological) are difficult to find concurrently in one coherent theory, but there are attempts to understand and explain the kinetics of this behavior. One of the theories relatable to this content is the “rotten apple theory.” The explanation originated from the corruption that was discovered in the New York City Police Department later resulting in the creation of the Knapp Commission. This theory states that “…the deviance is a result of a single, rogue officer (or, in this case, priest) who operated alone without organizational knowledge or support” (White & Terry, 2008, p. 659). White and Terry attempt to explain how this idea of the police being corrupt is similar to the concept of priests sexually abusing victims (2008). They find similar structures within the scope of the career of a cop and a priest.

Since both priests and cops hold a high level of responsibility within a community, a high volume of power is assigned to them. This power could easily be abused after some time of being familiar with the scope of their career since their decisions are not intensely monitored. As mentioned by White and Terry, “… there are distinct aspects of the working environment shared by both professions that promote or facilitate deviance…” (2008, p. 662). They hold a large range of discretion which is rarely reviewed or questioned. Authority and power in the community seems to be the common denominator among both positions. White and Terry further explain the similarities among the two professions in terms of the historical origins of deviance, potential causes of the deviant behavior, and ideas for how to control misconduct and build accountability (2008). The rotten apple theory further breaks down the components of each career.

The two main aspects that delineate the theory are the opportunity structures and the organizational structures (White & Terry, 2008). They claim that both priests and cops have similar opportunity structures which include: unique authority, public perception and trust, discretion, lack of supervision, and isolation (White & Terry, 2008). They also share similar organizational structures such as: limited career mobility, subculture, and maintaining the status quo (White & Terry, 2008). Such factors facilitate the corruption and engagement in criminal behaviors for not only the police, but Catholic priests as well. Regardless of the ability for this theory to explain the reason why priests engage in such acts, it is still very limited and serves as one side of the paradigm.

There are obviously limitations to a simplistic theory for such a complex behavior. In terms of how the theory applies originally to police behavior, White and Terry further explain that “…there is little consensus among police practitioners and scholars regarding the extent to which the rotten apple theory explains police deviance” (2008, p. 659). Since the theory was specifically originated for the corruption taking place in a police department, it is even further farfetched to attempt to use it to explain sexual corruption in a Catholic Church. Also, the group support theory can be applied for police deviance in which they are simply in a position to “cover each other’s backs” since they develop strongly as a group and perform the same tasks on a daily basis in order to survive. This type of explanation can be applied to the priests in Catholic Churches who receive support by the hierarchy and attempt to cover the reports of abuse. Regardless, any type of explanation for their behavior can serve as a blueprint for policy making. 

Policy Implications for the Catholic Church

Unfortunately, the Catholic Church has had the tendency to lay dormant regarding the issue of sexual abuse by priests. Many incidents have been discovered by the media which have caused a shock to the community, yet the response of the church is little to non-existent. The tradition has been that the Vatican addresses the issue and handles the situation within their scope of authority. Their hierarchy claims to institute a sanction on the priests, but the community goes unaware of what effectively results from their bad decisions. Very few priests have actually been processed through the criminal justice system and placed in a prison to serve time for their gruesome offenses. White and Terry’s research illustrates this point by showing that “Of the 4,392 priests who had allegations of abuse, only 613 (14.1%) were reported to the police, 217 (5.4%) priests were criminally charged, and 138 (3.6%) were convicted” (2008, p. 673). The researchers in this field are very selective when they use the term sexual “abusers” rather than the normal studies which use the term sexual “offenders” for this reason. The Nature and Scope Study has allowed a door of opportunities to restructure this system which will allow for policies to be implemented.

One of the important policies that can arise from the issue can pertain to the wellbeing of the victim. Not many therapists specialize on this issue because of the fact that it is such an obscure topic. The Nature and Scope Study helps to suggest that victims of priests do exist and will need all of the psychological treatment necessary. Van Wormer elaborates that counseling can be helpful for an individual because it “…can help a violated child or woman regain her faith in human nature, in her religious beliefs, and in herself” (2004, p. 63).  Not only would the victim benefit from the counseling, but the priest would as well.

Priests also clearly need the assistance that therapy can provide for them. Just as other individuals receive counseling for sex offending or sexual traumas, priests suffer from similar problems. This would imply that training needs to become available for therapists about creating the treatment plans for priests. They need to become familiar with the complicated dynamics that exist in the clerical abuse scenario. The treatment for priests should be available whether they are being punished by the justice system or not.

The processing of priests in the criminal justice system should become a readily available option just as any other sexual abuser would be processed. White and Terry suggest criminal law/ judicial intervention, civil liability, and citizen oversight as external control mechanisms (2008). Obviously, priests would face more danger in a prison setting; therefore other forms of sanctions should be sought for and applied. Since retribution has not been proven to be effective by any means, perhaps a restorative justice technique could be applied which would allow the individual to gain a sense of wholeness and well-being. Restorative justice might be much more healing to the victim as Van Wormer further explains “Unlike the adversarial criminal justice process, with restorative justice, the offender is called on to explain himself to the victim and community and often to begin to make amends” (2004, p. 64). Deterring these behaviors takes a direct course of action from the criminal justice system and the church.

Lastly and most importantly, the Catholic Church should employ improved screening techniques that would filter the entry for the life of priesthood as internal control mechanism. Researchers suggest careful selection of personnel and training, supervision and accountability, guidelines, internal affairs units, early warning systems, and attempting to change the subculture (White & Terry, 2008). The process of becoming a priest should be analyzed carefully and planned out over a course of time in order to avoid setting the church up for failure. Reaching out to individuals that are very young who are looking to become priests might not be the best method, since they are still developing and do not have the maturity to make the decision of turning the rest of their life away to the church. Also, constant re-evaluation of priests should be occurring by their superiors in order to assess that they still meet the needs of the religious community. The church should be more responsible with supervising their priests and holding them completely accountable for their unscrupulous behaviors.


Sexual abuse within the boundaries of the Catholic Church has been a topic that is unfathomable. Society tends to look the other way when issues surface that pertain to a sensitive nature. This has in part been a reason why priests were enabled into continuing their foul behaviors, while the victims were left ignored. When an institution of life violates the beliefs of the individual in such a gruesome manner, the psychological traumas that can arise for the victim could be untreatable. Fortunately, a team of researchers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice paved the way in 2004 for this topic to be discovered and analyzed by conducting the Nature and Scope Study which was the first study to provide numerical data in regards to the actual abuse that was occurring within the church walls from 1950 until 2002. It was able to specifically shed light to the amount of abusers and who the victims were. It also described the specific context of the incidents and what was done regarding the incident. The information gained from this study was vast and allowed other researchers to expand upon their own curiosities in this field of study.

Fortunately, when there is a better understanding of an issue, policies can be created in order to address it at the root. Some policies that could be implemented regarding this topic include the psychological treatment of the victims and the priests, an increased response by the criminal justice system, and an increased response by the Catholic Church. With increased training for therapists regarding this field of study, victims could begin healing. Also, priests could begin to understand their own psychology and learn about their triggers and de-escalation techniques. The criminal justice system could implement a restorative justice approach which would be a holistic way to handle each case. Lastly, the screening of candidates for priesthood could be filtered into a better system in the Catholic Church. More supervision or re-evaluation could help avoid this issue. The understanding of victimization and its detrimental effects could lead into the development of better policies and assisting of survivors who were sexually abused by priests.

While this issue may be of higher importance to some than others, for me it was due to cultural reasons. Most of my life consisted of family members, specifically grandparents, pushing religion upon me. Being part of the Mexican culture, it is very important to belong to the Church institution, specifically the Catholic Church. Many of our traditions and practices revolve around the rites of passage that originate from the Church scenario. First, I was baptized into it, then I attended two years of Catechism classes which resulted in a first communion, then I went through a similar process in order to have a religious confirmation at age fifteen, and lastly I will be expected to get married in the Catholic Church. At age fifteen, I was expected to have a Quinceañera[2] which required me to attend Church and confess my adolescent “sins” to what appeared to me as an older man in a robe. The next part of this process involved a ceremony in the second largest Cathedral in the world in Guadalajara, Mexico in which I sat in front of a priest who gave a one or three hour speech about religious ideals. To my surprise, I was handed a document which I had to read from a microphone in front of my one-hundred supporting family members and friends who were in attendance. This procedure graduated me into supposed womanhood.

Although these fancy events took a lot of preparation and my voluntariness, I always felt as if I did not have a choice. My inquisitive nature did not allow me to feel accepting of these religious events because I never held a man in such high regards. The only man that a young girl can trust at this age is her father, whom I lacked trust for. Therefore, it was difficult for me to accept that I had to belong to this institution in which one man is in charge of my spirituality. I detested the idea once I began discovering that some priests were involved with sexual exploitation of their followers. I began to question many things that I was told or that appeared to be real since I was very young due to some of my unfortunate experiences. Therefore, when my grandmother would question me (and still does) about my attendance to Church, I would squirm a bit about the idea of almost being forced to blindly be a follower simply for the sake of the culture. If this were the case, then I would have also followed my culture’s tendency to drop out of school young, run away from home, and get pregnant at an early age. I believe that the fact that I made it to graduate school without any previous leaders to follow in my family makes me a leader. As a leader in my family, I prefer to be informed and not accept information simply because it is fed to me. Luckily, I do question the negative aspects of my culture even though I still remain instinctively proud to be a Mexican-American. Therefore, I owed it to myself to research further on the topic in order to gain insight about the deep rooted issues, but also remain hopeful about the possible positive changes that can arise from this corruption.


Cannon, C.M. (2002). The priest scandal: How old news at last became a dominant national story…and why it took so long. American Journalism Review, 24, 18-25.


Editorial: “Church needs help to quash abuse cover-ups.” (2011). National Catholic Reporter, 28. Retrieved from:


Perillo, A.D., Mercado, C.C., & Terry, K.J. (2008). Repeat offending, victim gender, and extent of victim relationship in Catholic Church sexual abusers: Implications for risk assessment. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 35, 600-614.


Smith, M.L., Rengifo, A.F., & Vollman, B.K. (2008). Trajectories of abuse and disclosure: Child sexual abuse by catholic priests. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 35, 570-582.


Terry, K.J. (2008). Stained glass: The nature and scope of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 35, 549-569.


Van Wormer, K. & Berns, L. (2004). The impact of priest sexual abuse: Female survivors’narratives. Affilia, 19, 53-67.


White, M.D. & Terry, K.J. Child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church: Revisiting the rotten apples explanation. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 35, 658-678.


[1] Pedophilia involves the sexual desire of a child by experiencing “…recurrent, intense, sexually arousing fantasies about prepubescent children”, while ephebophilia involves the sexual desire of adolescents in the same manner (Terry, 2008, p. 561).


[2] A Quinceañera is a ceremony that is held by family members for fifteen year old females in the Mexican culture. This usually includes a mass in the Catholic Church, accompanied with a celebration with family and friends. This event signifies that she is ready for womanhood, including marriage and children. It is comparable to the Bar mitzvah rite of passage for males in the Jewish community.