cover image Perversion of Power: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church

Perversion of Power: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church

Mary Gail Frawley-O'Dea, . . Vanderbilt Univ., $24.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-8265-1547-6

Frawley-O'Dea, a clinical psychologist who has worked with victims of sexual abuse, examines the Catholic clergy's sexual abuse crisis in this well-documented compendium that incorporates her analysis of what went wrong. The co-author of Treating the Adult Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse speaks both as a professional and as a Catholic whose relationship with the church was affected by the crisis. She now attends an Episcopal church.) Contributing factors she identifies include Catholic teachings about the status of bishops and acceptable sexual behaviors, the church's tendency to valorize suffering and its dualistic view of body and soul. Controversially, she also points to what she calls "the Irish Factor," noting that over half the hierarchy were of Irish heritage and thus "freighted with the status insecurities and sexual repressiveness endemic to that culture," leaving them "psychosocially unprepared" to confront the problem. Yet as the only mental health professional to speak to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at the 2002 meeting where the crisis was first discussed significantly, Frawley-O'Dea believes that the zero-tolerance policy for any priest credibly accused of sexual misconduct was, in hindsight, "unpastoral." She warns that improvements to screening future priests will not eliminate abuse and urges Catholics to remain vigilant in holding their leaders accountable. (Mar.)