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Markham, D.J. Mikail, S.F. (2004). Perpetrators of Clergy Abuse: Insights from Attachment Theory. Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 5(1):197-212.

(2004). Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 5(1):197-212

Perpetrators of Clergy Abuse: Insights from Attachment Theory

Donna J. Markham, Ph.D., ABPP and Samuel F. Mikail, Ph.D., ABPP

Sexual abuse of children is an egregious violation of innocence. Such acts can seriously compromise the emotional and spiritual well-being of individuals, parents, and entire faith communities. It is the gravity of these consequences that influenced the American bishops' zero-tolerance stance reflected in the Norms of 2002. Implicit in the Norms is an assumption that clergy who have engaged in sexual misconduct with minors comprise a homogeneous group who should be treated in the same fashion and for whom there is little, if any, hope for healing. Such a tendency to view clergy offenders in this manner is an expected and understandable reaction that allows us to distance ourselves from what we perceive to be evil while ostensibly providing a sense of safety for the most vulnerable members of the community of faith. This paper takes a radically different position as, using the tenets of attachment theory, we posit differing psychological profiles of clergy molesters. An explication of the attachment style of the child molester is critical to treatment planning and prognostication. We present three composite cases that have been

treated at the Southdown Institute, each representing a unique attachment style and each resulting in significantly different treatment outcomes.

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