In addition to the other effects of sexual abuse on children and their
families, since the perpetrators are priests or members of the clergy,
there will also be serious "spirtual" consequences. Those affected
include the victims, their immediate families as well as others in
their circle of friends and acquaintences. There will also be serious
spiritual consequences for the wider church community. Spiritual concerns
also encompass the cleric-offenders and other members of the clergy
in the diocese and in other areas.
1. Sexual abuse of a child by a cleric, especially a priest, can have
a devastating effect on the child s short and long term perception
of the church and its clergy. How will the child be able to perecive
the clergy as authentic, unselfish ministers of the Gospel and the
Church as the Body of Christ.
2. The victims capacity to develop trusting relationships with adult
clergy will be impaired.
3. The abused child s faith in the sacraments as sources of grace
and communications with Christ, through the ministry of a priest,
will be seriously weakened.
4. Depending on the manner with which Church authorities deal with
the case, the victim and others may quickly deveop a perception of
Church s leadership as ineffective and unauthenticvis-a-vi its commitment
to all of its members and not simply its commitment. to its leaders
and the clergy.
5. Church attendance by the victims their families and other members
of the faithful may decline.
6. Help must be given to priest offenders to discern the nature of
their commitment to the priesthood, the reasons for their choice of
this vocation, their hopes and plans for the future and the real possibility
that they are almost totally unfit to be priests.
7. Other priests and clerics who are not affected with sexual problems
may perceive a severe hampering in their ability to minister, particularly
to and with children. They might become very fearful of even touching
children such as blessing them, making normal signs of affection etc.
8. In addition to the overall problem of the image of the Church as
a haven for homosexuals and sexual perverts, the image of the priesthood
is severely hampered and the faith of many in the priesthood is threatenedby
the fact of priests who are sex offenders as well as by the way the
problems are handled or mishandled by Church authorities.
9. The victims and possibly even their families may develop unwarrented
feelings of guilt because of the contact with priests. This can be
complicated by an unwillingness to accept a priest as the minister
of forgiveness and absolution with consequent inabilityto alleviate
the guilt feelings through the traditional channels of absolution.