Volume One: The Elephants in God’s Living Room: Clergy Sexual Abuse and Institutional Clericalism

The Elephants in God’s Living Room: Clergy Sexual Abuse and Institutional Clericalism, Volume One, Theoretical Issues

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Chapter Abstracts

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A World Public Health Model


In 2002 the World Health Organization (WHO) published The First World Report on Violence and Health.  Stating unequivocally that violence is the world’s number one public health problem, the Report’s authors set out a typology of violence which can be used in global efforts to curtail and prevent the many forms of human violence.  This chapter describes the WHO typology of violence and applies it to issues of sexual violence.   It summarizes the WHO model for working to alter violence-prone societies and individuals.

KEY WORDS: World Health Organization, WHO violence typology, rape, sexual harassment, primary prevention, secondary prevention, tertiary prevention, organized religion, Gro Harlem Bruntland, Nelson Mandela


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Religious Typologies of Violence


This chapter describes two twentieth century typologies of violence.  They were developed by Christian writers Robert McAfee Brown, a Presbyterian minister and ethicist from the United States and Dom Helder Camara, a Roman Catholic archbishop from Brazil.  Applications of these typologies are made using sexual violence as an organizing frame of reference.

KEY WORDS: Overt physical assault, overt institutional assault, covert personal violence, covert institutional violence, structural violence, violence against the truth, Robert McAfee Brown, Dom Helder Camara.


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Human Consciousness and Human Action


This chapter examines the relationship between human consciousness and human behavior.  It explores theoretical questions of individual consciousness within a context of collective or transpersonal consciousness (that human reality which Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh describes as a state of interbeing).  As we consider the role of individual and collective consciousness in a sexual abuse perpetrator’s decisions to molest or assault another human being, we begin to see that a cultural form called clergy sexual violence exists alongside a religious professional’s most private thoughts and his abusive interpersonal actions.  Both Buddhism and Christianity recognize the importance of this interior thought process which precedes a manifestation of individual and collective consciousness in behavior.

KEY WORDS:  Collective consciousness, individual consciousness, transpersonal consciousness, compassion, victim-blaming, the Buddha-like consciousness, the Christ-like consciousness, Jean Shinoda Bolen and cultural transformation, Ken Keyes and The Hundredth Monkey, Rupert Sheldrake’s Morphic Field Theory, Thich Nhat Hanh and interbeing


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Subterranean Roots: Contributions of Depth Psychology to the Conversation


The psychoanalytic work or depth psychology theories of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung brought about changes in a Western understanding of the often obscure roots or motivations for individual and collective behavior.    This chapter is a companion chapter to the preceding one.  It explores the intra-psychic roots of sexual violence and clericalism.

KEY WORDS:  Patriarchal consciousness; Sigmund Freud, depth psychology, and the structures of human consciousness, eros/libido, thanatos, catharsis, defense coping mechanisms; Carl Jung and archetypal psychology,  the ego, the Self, the personal shadow, the collective shadow, the archetypal shadow, questions of human evil; Rollo May and topics of determinism, human free will and human freedom


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The Social Construction of Human Power


Issues of personal power and institutional power are examined from a socio-cultural perspective.   Power is defined as an interpersonal ability to act and to influence others.   Various forms of power are described such as physical power and interpersonal power.  The issue of control of one individual over another is introduced.   This chapter explores and examines the powers of those who are seen culturally as powerful and those who are seen culturally as weak or powerless.   Issues of malevolent, despotic or corrupted power are identified.  It includes a feminist typology of power.  This chapter begins to examine the relationship of a sexual abuse victim to his or her perpetrator as a power violation rather than a sexual morality code violation.  It also begins to examine issues of clericalism as a power violation.

Key Words:  Power, control, coercion, social influence, the powers of the strong, the powers of the weak, a feminist typology of power, sexual abuse, power and positional authority violations, Elizabeth Janeway, Starhawk


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Authority Defined


Human authority and human power are correlated with each other but they are not precisely the same reality.  Human authority can be rooted in blood lines, as for example the British monarchy, or it can be rooted in personal charisma of an individual.  In Western democratic societies, it is most often rooted within pyramidal organizations such as the nation-state or a religious denomination.  Those who occupy positions of authority and leadership have access to power and the right to control others.

One of the characteristics of the relationship of authority figures with their subordinates is the expectation that leaders of pyramidal organizations have the right to command others.  This includes an expectation of more or less automatic obedience from their subordinates.  In Western democracies with Christian roots there are two correlated social duties regarding the expectation of automatic obedience.  In some situations, the duty to obey is correlated with the duty to disobey.

Issues of legitimacy surface: is the hierarchical institution a legitimate one?  Is the person in authority legitimately in a position to enforce his or her institutional position and power?  Is the request for obedience a legitimate one?   Subordinates are often faced with complex problems in assessing whether they need to obey or they need to disobey.  The relationship of positional or institutional authority to power and the ability and willingness to coerce obedience is explored.

Key Words:  Traditional authority, charismatic authority, legal or rational-bureaucratic authority, professional authority; hybrid forms of authority, legitimate authority, competing structures of obedience (a duty to obey, a duty to disobey), coercion, persuasion, state authority, religious authority, structural elements of obedience and disobedience, Herbert C. Kelman and V. Lee Hamilton


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Religious Authority and the Duty to Obey


In Western Christianity, the concept and practice of religious authority reaches back in history to its origins in proximity to the pagan Roman empires.  By the time of Emperor Constantine (CE272-337) and the Church Council of Nicaea (CE 325), the Christian Church began to consolidate its theology of leadership and rule.  One aspect that both agreed upon was the duty of Christians to obey (God, the Church, and the emperor.

In examining the concept of human obedience through the eyes of the contemporary social sciences such as social psychology and sociology, it becomes clear that there is a social construct of obedience in all situations where human leaders emerge.

While not all obedience is authoritarian in nature, the default position in human relationships is to obey those who superior to one in positions of authority and rule.

Key Words:  Matthew 21:23, authority, obedience, violence and social control,  the duty to obey,  the position of dissent,  clergy sexual abuse, institutional clericalism, authoritarianism, corrupt religion, pathological religion, Constantine,  The Church Council at Nicaea ,  The Church Council at Elvira,


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The Perplexing Issue of Religious Authoritarianism


Authoritarianism is an issue in civil society.  It is equally an issue in corporate religious organizations.  After the conclusion of World War Two, social scientists began to examine the nature, structures, and roots of authoritarianism in individuals and within social cultures.  This chapter examines authoritarianism as one root of individual sexual violence and collective clericalism.  Psychological mechanisms noted in authoritarian individuals are identified.

Key Words:  clergy sexual abuse, religious organization criminal malfeasance, clericalism, rule-oriented authoritarianism, role-oriented authoritarianism, value-oriented authoritarianism, position-authoritarianism, systemic authoritarianism, proto-fascist authoritarianism, psychological mechanisms, victim advocacy and healing, John Dean, Walter Wink


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The Language of Abuse and Violation


The way that individuals and communities describe their personal and social realities is an important clue to the values which they hold and the issues which they wish individually and culturally to deny.  This chapter examines the nature of naming as it relates to clergy sexual abuse and to institutional clericalism.  The chapter identifies specific forms of sexual abuse which are found within the encompassing label of clergy sexual abuse.  Using the World Health Organization category of personal violence, three specific forms of abuse are identified: physical sexual assault, sexual harassment, and problematic sexual misconduct manifested in sexual intercourse.  The issue of euphemisms and code language is introduced and explored.  In addition, cultural sanctions for such abuse are identified and described.  The relationship of confidentiality to secrecy is explored.

Key Words: adultery, code words, confession and forgiveness, confidentiality and secrecy, rape, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, sexual misconduct, sexual harassment contact violations, sexual harassment non-contact violations


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Ordained Clergy and Religious Leader Abuse


Identifying clergy abuse of the laity as one form of professional abuse, the chapter explores Peter Rutter’s ground-breaking work in which he explores several questions: (1) Who are the abusers?  (2) Why do professional guilds not uphold the moral and ethical standards of their professions in holding sexual abusers to the standards of the profession?  (3) What are the consequences of professional sexual abuse in the lives of victims?    In addition, a clinical discussion of transference and counter-transference locates the moral responsibility in all situations of clergy sexual abuse and sexual misconduct with the perpetrator of such abuse.  Selected religious and spiritual dimensions of clergy sexual abuse and institutional clericalism are examined.  Marker events in the developmental trajectory of an abuser are discussed.  The need for better demographic research is identified as one needed element in diagnosis, treatment and prevention efforts.

Key Words: clericalism, clergy sexual abuse, marker events, power, professional sexual abuse, professional guild responses to sexual abuse, transference and counter-transference, trust betrayal, reciprocal consent, Robert Grant, Peter Rutter


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Betrayal Trauma


In addition to the physical and psychological trauma experienced by victims of clergy sexual abuse, the phenomenon of betrayal trauma is also present. Clergy sexual abuse is one form of affinity sexual violence. In other words, the perpetrator of religious professional abuse is known to his victims prior to his sexual assault.  Because of his position and authority as a religious leader and teacher, the perpetrator before abuse began was a trusted and respected individual – a person who by virtue of his position represented God and the institutional church in his associations with them. Thus religious professional and clergy sexual abuse not only violates the physical body of individuals, it violates their spirit as well. In addition, it violates entire communities. The betrayal has multiple audiences:  Individual victims are betrayed. Families of victims are betrayed. A congregation or denomination is betrayed. Finally, the teachings of religious faith are, themselves, betrayed.  When denominations or religious communities fail to appropriately supervise abusive religious professionals, institutional forms of betrayal both replicate and compound the original betrayal of sexual abuse.

Key Words: Betrayal trauma,  clergy sexual abuse, doctrines, theology, and religious practices of the cultural form of clergy abuse, double-bind communication patterns, APA religious problems diagnosis, APA spiritual problems diagnosis, trauma of abuse, Gregory Bateson, Thomas Doyle, Erik Erikson,  Jennifer Freyd,  David Lukoff,  A. W. Richard Sipe


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Institutional Clericalism


This chapter examines a form of collective religious institution behavior known as clericalism.  Clericalism is defined as an institutional clergy structure and practice that protects the clergy and church institutions at the expense of the laity.  In some situations clericalism constitutes a form of criminal malfeasance.  In structure and social behavior clericalism resembles corporate or governmental crimes of obedience.

Key Words:  clericalism, cover-ups, Roman Catholic Church sexual abuse crisis, insurance liability policies, religious authoritarianism,, religious hypocrisy,  Donald Cozzens Thomas P. Doyle, A. W. Richard Sipe, ,


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Luke 10: 28-34 

An ancient Parable

Jesus teaches his disciples and followers by parables.  In Luke’s gospel we find the parable of the Good Samaritan.  The story begins as Jesus answers a question from one of the scribes in his listening audience.  In the Hebrew culture scribes were similar to religious or canon lawyers in ours.  This chapter explores the relevance of Jesus’ parable to contemporary situations of religious leader and clergy sexual abuse and institutional patterns of clericalism.

Key Words:  Jesus, The Parable of the Good Samaritan, neighbor, religious orthodoxy, scribes, priests, Levites, Samaritans


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The Duty to Forgive


In many situations of clergy sexual abuse of the laity, victimized individuals are advised to forgive the perpetrator, forget his injustice, reconcile with him, and move on.  In situations of clericalism, the institutional church also recommends such a forgive-forget-reconcile-and-move-on model.  This chapter examines the socio-political aspects of such a recommendation or requirement in the lives of victims and in the communal life of a congregation or denomination. Two faulty theological models of forgiveness are identified.  The role of story-telling as a foundation for theological construction is described.  This chapter claims that obligatory forgiveness demands imposed upon victims of religious professional and clergy sexual abusers and by institutional religious leaders form yet another form of religious or spiritual abuse.

Key Words: forgiveness, obligatory forgiveness, confession, repentance, reconciliation, perpetrator accountability, re-victimization, social oppression


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Christian Models of Forgiveness


Neither Christians nor secular psychotherapeutic clinicians have a common vocabulary regarding Christian theologies or secular ideologies of forgiveness. Various Jewish and Christian scriptures reveal multiple patterns of advice to the believing faithful regarding forgiveness.  Twentieth-century Christians in a wide variety of denominational heritages examine concepts of forgiveness in a wide variety of social situations where violence and abuse are present.  In this chapter three forgiveness models are examined: (1) a Roman Catholic model of confession, forgiveness and absolution; (2) a model for forgiveness and reconciliation utilized by Episcopalian Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his work with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in post-apartheid South Africa; (3) a Protestant model developed by United Church of Christ minister and sexual abuse consultant Marie Fortune.

While no definitive conclusions can be drawn about a needed Christian theology of forgiveness for the twenty-first century, this chapter identifies several requirements for re-theologizing forgiveness in light of clergy sexual abuse and institutional clericalism.

Key Words: absolution, accountability, clergy sexual abuse, clericalism, confession, forgiveness of others, justice, mercy, perpetrator recidivism, repentance,  , reconciliation, religious moral corruption, the role of truth in healing, self-forgiveness; teshuvah and teshuvah gemurah, victim-blaming, victim-healing, Thomas P. Doyle, Marie Fortune, Thomas Gumbleton, A. W. Richard Sipe, Desmond Tutu, Patrick J. Wall


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Summary and Conclusions


This final chapter presents a summary of ideas and issues which have been covered in previous chapters. In addition, it presents several recommendations for religious organizations which seek to create a safe environment for a particular religious community.  Additional recommendations are made for seminary education programs. The goal is to assist ordination candidates to think about these issues before they encounter them in the course of their active ministries.

Key Words:  Clericalism, clergy sexual abuse, criminal behavior, religious authoritarianism, sin, safe church programs, individual conversion, institutional transformation









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