The View from the Ground
Much of the literature on Roman Catholic clergy comes from a number of sources, including scholarly books and essays, empirical research studies, newspaper reports, and some relevant websites. Although not exclusively so, much of the scholarly work on clergy is written by current priests and religious (male and female) who have a professional and/or personal interest in the subject. There are advantages and disadvantages to clergy engaging in this type of research. On the one hand they have an intimate knowledge of seminary and clerical life and the inner workings and dynamics of the Church hierarchy and the institution of the Roman Catholic Church, a knowledge that is invaluable. On the other hand, the risk of bias may be inflated. This chapter draws on this literature and other sources to outline the state of the field in relation to Catholic clergy. It first discusses the literature on “normal” clergy, followed by a review of the literature on clerical men who have sexually abused minors, and then briefly compares both. It argues for an expansive lens through which to understand sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. By understanding, there is no attempt to condone the men's abusive behavior. On the contrary, it is one of the central theses of this book that by understanding the internal “logic” of the apparently illogical action, we learn more about the phenomenon and are in a position to take more decisive and informed action to prevent its occurrence in the future.
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