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Celenza, A. (2004). Sexual Misconduct in the Clergy: The Search for the Father. Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 5(1):213-232.

(2004). Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 5(1):213-232

Sexual Misconduct in the Clergy: The Search for the Father

Andrea Celenza, Ph.D.

This paper explores how clergy sexual misconduct occurs at the intersection of spirituality, sexuality, and unchallenged omnipotence. Pathological relations to sexuality and power often reflect a narcissistic refusal of certain existential givens, such as difference, limit, separateness, and lack. The teachings of Christianity, the hierarchy of the Catholic organization, and the demand for celibacy can offer pathological solutions for problems with sexuality, power, and narcissistic vulnerability. Fantasies of merger can collapse the boundaries of time, space, difference, and separateness, as well as offer a triumph over oedipal rivalry without competition, aggression, or envy. Through the Holy Spirit, the third vector of the Trinity, a priest may become one with Christ and God. He finds maternal holding through merger with her, the church, while taking in and becoming one with a masculine and omnipotent ideal with him, Christ and God. In this way, the hierarchy of the church may support omnipotence rather than challenge it while at the same time offering a vehicle for its disavowal.

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