Catholic Church and Child Sexual Abuse Allegations


The protection of children and their rights should never slack, even when they are thought to be safe environments. Over the last two years, the Catholic church has come under a lot of criticism due to allegations of its priests sexually assaulting children in their congregation. This all began in 2002 when the Boston Globe published a list of priests who were accused of being sexual predators (Henley, 2010). From then on, other allegations have emerged across Catholic churches all over the world. Some of these cases can be traced to even three decades before, underlining how prevailing the issue has been. Some of the bishops were accused of covering up for their priests through private settlements and ignoring the accusations. The exposé in 2002 led the Archbishop of Boston to publish a list of priests who had been accused. It left out the name of dead priests as they were not there to defend themselves. However, in April 2019, the diocese published a list of dead priests who had credible accusations against them (Zauzmer, 2019). The case has developed a global context over the following years. The Catholic church was ordered by the judiciary in Chile to compensate the victims of abuse (“Chile court orders Catholic Church to compensate abuse victims,” 2019).

As of 2015, at least 1600 children deaths in the United States were due to child abuse (“National Statistics on Child Abuse,” 2019). More than 300,000 children received services in the Children Advocacy Centers in the same year. 700,000 children are estimated to be victims of child abuse annually in the country (“National Statistics on Child Abuse,” 2019). Child neglect is the commonest form of abuse at 75 percent, at least 17 percent suffering from physical abuse, and 8 percent are sexually abused (“National Statistics on Child Abuse,” 2019). A significant proportion of the victims may suffer multiple forms of abuse over the same period. At least 80 percent of the abusers are parents.


Childhood is an important stage of growth and development. It is at this stage that an individual is molded into the adult they will become. It is the stage where interaction with peers is learned and practiced. Behaviors and character traits that persist for life are picked up during this important stage. The experiences, either negative or positive, influence the development of his adult personality (Tural Büyük & Rızalar, 2016). Ensuring high productivity in adulthood requires the minimization of negative experiences. Child abuse is a negative event that potentially changes the course of life of the child.

As mentioned previously, there are various forms of child abuse. These forms are likely to co-occur as the perpetrator generally lacks feelings of good welfare towards the child (Schilling et al., 2016). Hence, the child is predisposed to the other forms even though they might only be experiencing one form. There are several risk factors for the occurrence of abuse. They include a history of family violence, mental illness or substance abuse, a young parent, child disability, chronic illness, and single-parent families (Caneira & Myrick, 2015, p. 642). These kinds of environments usually contain a lot of aggression, especially of the parents. The child becomes a tool for releasing this aggression, hence serving as an abnormal form of calming emotions.

Child abuse has physical, emotional, and mental effects (Merrick & Latzman, 2014). The physical effects are the easiest to manage as they mainly involve physical treatment. They result from physical injuries apparent when the abuse is perpetrated. They may include burns, fractures, or wounds. The long-term effects of the abuse are mainly emotional and mental. Children who are victims are likely to suffer from mental conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, and bipolar illness (Afifi et al., 2014). This predisposes them to the risk of suicide in later life. The link between this vice and mental disorders underlines how it is integral to ensure children’s safety. Even in environments that are considered safe, there should be permanent systems to ensure their welfare.


As shown by the case of the Catholic priests, we lack effective methods of early detection of child abuse. The detection should have occurred at the level of the parent, teacher, or any other service provider who has close contact with children such as medical personnel. Parents and other adults who are in close contact with children should be educated on how to monitor children’s behaviors and correctly interpret any changes that may occur. Its detection requires a high index of suspicion especially if the perpetrator is someone known to the victim. An educational program that is centered around abuse will be highly effective against improving the attitudes of parents and caregivers towards abuse (Khosravan, Sajjadi, Moshari & Sofla, 2018, p. 228). This also implies that there will be prevention of further cases.


Children are the future of any society. It is thus imperative for society to assure that its formative years are filled with positive experiences to ensure it thrives in the future. Failure to do so will lead to adults who are unable to fully function as they are experiencing the shocks of a myriad of issues from their past. They are likely to transmit these social issues to their future as they have been brought up this way. Every environment should be protective, and every adult should be equipped with the knowledge and skills to detect any forms of abuse faced by children. This can best be achieved through the education of caregivers on how to protect children and detect signs of child abuse. This provides the safety of future generations as the vice is eradicated. It also ensures high productivity in their adulthood and the safety of their future children.


Afifi, T., MacMillan, H., Boyle, M., Taillieu, T., Cheung, K., & Sareen, J. (2014). Child abuse and mental disorders in Canada. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 186(9), E324-E332. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.131792

Caneira, L., & Myrick, K. (2015). Diagnosing Child Abuse: The Role of the Nurse Practitioner. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, 11(6), 640-646. doi: 10.1016/j.nurpra.2015.03.017

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Henley, J. (2010). How the Boston Globe exposed the abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic church, The Guardian. Web.

Khosravan, S., Sajjadi, M., Moshari, J., & Sofla, F. (2018). The Effect of Education on the Attitude and Child Abuse Behaviors of Mothers with 3-6-Year-Old Children: A Randomized Controlled Trial Study. International Journal of Community Based Midwifery and Nursing, 6(3), 227-238. Web.

Merrick, M., & Latzman, N. (2014). Child Maltreatment: A Public Health Overview and Prevention Considerations. The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 19(1). doi: 10.3912/OJIN.Vol19No01Man02

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Schilling, C., Weidner, K., Brähler, E., Glaesmer, H., Häuser, W., & Pöhlmann, K. (2016). Patterns of Childhood Abuse and Neglect in a Representative German Population Sample. PLOS ONE, 11(7), e0159510. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0159510

Tural Büyük, E., & Rızalar, S. (2016). Knowledge levels of members of different occupations on child abuse and neglect. Journal of Human Sciences, 13(3), 3827. doi: 10.14687/jhs.v13i3.3832

Zauzmer, J. (2019). Baltimore archdiocese names more priests accused of abuse, all of them deceased, The Washington Post. Web.

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PsychologyWriting. "Catholic Church and Child Sexual Abuse Allegations." September 6, 2023.