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Title: The sexual abuse of minors by the clergy : the effects of this crisis on non-offending priests in England and Wales
Author: O'Sullivan, Barry
ISNI:       0000 0004 7655 6048
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis explores the impact on non-offending priests of a two-dimensional crisis for the Roman Catholic Church: the scandal of child sexual abuse by some in its clergy compounded by the unsatisfactory response to the crisis by the Church hierarchy. Child sexual abuse, although particularly difficult for the Church because of its taboo nature, has erupted as a scandal across British society and in many other countries. Extensive attention by the media, governments, the Catholic and other churches and various organizations has focused on safeguarding children and punishing the guilty, including institutions which, like the Catholic Church, sought to cover it up. The personal and professional problems of non-offending Catholic priests do not seem to have been recognised and addressed. Hence the question - "What is the impact on non-offending Catholic Priests in England and Wales of the sexual abuse of minors by the clergy". To collect data on the problems facing innocent priests, I opted for a qualitative research methodology, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), using a Hermeneutic approach to interpret in-depth the results of interviews with six priests selected on a representative basis from among priests in England and Wales. IPA helps the researcher to develop an "insider perspective", one I already possessed as a long-serving Catholic priest. My priestly position and my additional knowledge of both counselling and safeguarding enabled me as a researcher to overcome the difficult taboo nature of the subject to elicit from the participants a deeper understanding of the problems common to all of them as individuals. The findings from my six intensive interviews reveal eight broad areas of concern, superordinate themes which continue to seriously affect how they view other priests, their confidence in themselves as priests, their perception of their role in ministering to children and their faith in the establishment they serve. They also reveal that the Catholic Church, despite being the fount of their religious and moral lives and their employer, is not addressing these concerns in a co-ordinated way, or at all. One of the superordinate themes, betrayal, bridges both dimensions of the crisis as priests struggle to deal with brother priests who have betrayed them and with the Church which is both a victim and a perpetrator of betrayal. The experiences my interviewees shared with me offer a previously ignored insight into the experience of being, as far as I can ascertain, non-offending priests in a society which seems to regard all Roman Catholic priests with increasing suspicion because of the child abuse scandal. The data unearthed in this thesis is not presented as the views of all priests in England and Wales or in the rest of the international Church. But the commonality of the global child sex abuse scandal and the scandalous early response to it by the Church in all countries, and the commonality of the views by my representative sample of priests in England and Wales present a challenge to the Catholic Church, and indeed other institutions, to investigate further and respond to the adverse effects of the crisis on innocent priests.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Non-offending priests ; sexual abuse ; Catholic Church ; psychological welfare