Understanding child sexual abuse by Catholic priests from a situational perspective

J Child Sex Abus. 2012;21(4):437-55. doi: 10.1080/10538712.2012.693579.


Most sexual offense research focuses on offender motivation and individual risk factors rather than the criminal events themselves. This article provides an analysis of data from two studies on child sexual abuse by Catholic priests to help understand the opportunities clergy had or created to abuse youth. Findings show that situational factors played a role in victim choice among a heterogeneous group of abusers. Priests abused more male than female victims and had significantly greater access to male youth historically. When access to female youth increased in the 1990s, abuse of females as a percentage of victims also increased. The article concludes with a discussion about how ecological information can be used to craft intervention policies to prevent sexual offenses.

MeSH terms

  • Catholicism*
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / prevention & control*
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology
  • Clergy / psychology*
  • Comprehension*
  • Crime Victims
  • Criminals / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Social Environment