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Frawley-O'Dea, M.G. (2004). Psychosocial Anatomy of the Catholic Sexual Abuse Scandal. Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 5(1):121-137.

(2004). Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 5(1):121-137

Psychosocial Anatomy of the Catholic Sexual Abuse Scandal

Mary Gail Frawley-O'Dea, Ph.D.

As the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church captured headlines throughout 2002 and into 2003, many within the Church and outside of it tried to understand how it all had happened. Perhaps understandably, there was a temptation to keep it simple, to find one or two identifiable, easily grasped causes for the crisis. Despite the allure of simple answers, however, it must be recognized that the root causes of the crisis are embedded in an intricate matrix of power relationships, traditions, and teachings that, in combination, rendered the abuse scandal almost inevitable. Further, every constituency within the Church— bishops, abusing priests, rank-and-file priests, and the laity, as well as the Vatican and Pope John Paul II—share varying degrees of accountability for tolerating decades, if not centuries, of sexual abuse of the Church's young. This article introduces a comprehensive view of the underpinnings of the scandal.

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