Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church
A Decade of Crisis, 2002–2012
by Thomas G. Plante and Kathleen L. McChesney, Editors
October 2011, 270pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-39387-7
$65, £50, 57€, A90
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eBook Available: 978-0-313-39388-4
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It has been ten years since stories of sexual abuse in the U.S. Catholic Church first shocked America. Yet recent events make it clear that the crisis has not abated, that such allegations are still being covered up. What has the past decade taught us about the abuse, the abusers, the role of the church—and the work that remains?

Taking on a still-controversial topic, a diverse group of experts, including victims and clergy, offers reflections on the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, examining what the church has done—and what it still needs to do—to protect children.

Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: A Decade of Crisis, 2002–2012 is a thoughtful, multidisciplinary commentary. Beginning when the scandal first broke in Boston in 2002, this first-of-its-kind work offers a wide range of opinion, both positive and negative, on what has been done in the ensuing ten years to stop and prevent such abuse.

Through the contributions here, readers can delve into the world of the church hierarchy and into the minds of abusive priests and their victims. The book presents the views of leading academics and psychologists, but also allows the church to speak. First-person insights from victims are shared, as in a chapter written by a woman abused by a clergy member as an adolescent. She explains what happened, the resulting trauma, how she healed, and what she thinks needs to be done to prevent future abuse—a subject that still makes headlines and stirs debate.


  • Contributions from 20 leading experts on sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy, including a federal judge; a social worker; a priest; a bishop; prominent psychologists; and professors of law, crime, and sociology
Thomas G. Plante, PhD, ABPP, is professor of psychology and directs the Spirituality and Health Institute at Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA. He is also adjunct clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA. Plante is the author or editor of 14 books including ABC-CLIO's Sin against the Innocents: Sexual Abuse by Priests and the Role of the Catholic Church and Bless Me Father For I Have Sinned: Perspectives on Sexual Abuse Committed by Roman Catholic Priests. He serves as vice chair of the National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Youth for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and is president of the psychology and religion division of the American Psychological Association.

Kathleen L. McChesney, PhD, was appointed executive director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002 and charged with implementing procedures in all dioceses to prevent sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy. McChesney is a former FBI executive and currently the CEO of Kinsale Consulting in Los Angeles, CA. She is the coauthor of Pick Up Your Own Brass: Leadership the FBI Way and the recipient of several awards including the U.S. Presidential Award for Meritorious Public Service.


"The editors are to be commended for the varied snapshots of this tragically momentous period of Catholic history that are made possible by their choice of contributors. . . . Clinicians and researchers alike would benefit from reading the book to gain better insight into the crises being grappled with by this faith family."—PsycCRITIQUES, August 15, 2012

"A must-read. Summing Up: Essential. All readers."—Choice, May 1, 2012

"Plante, a clinical psychologist, and McChesney, who worked with the USCCB to develop its charter, offer a collection of essays by a broad range of contributors, including victims, lawyers, academics, psychologists, and priests themselves, who are living with the dark cloud now cast by the scandal. The essays include a review of the USCCB report and recommendations of change, including the addition of 'human development' for priests in training. Other essays provide historical context for child abuse beyond the Catholic Church, tracing concerns back to the Middle Ages, and more modern context derived from the social upheaval of the 1960s. Contributors also explore how the scandals have opened the church to discussion of issues of celibacy, homosexuality, and the role of women. "—Booklist Online, January 30, 2012

“A veritable who’s who of experts on clerical sexual abuse have come together to analyze the crisis and make important recommendations for the future.” —Thomas J. Reese, SJ, Senior Fellow, Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University

“This thoughtful book is a must read for those interested and involved with the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. The authors have done a great service to both the Church and our society.”—Robert S. Bennett, Former Member of the National Review Board

“Much has been written by many who have only a peripheral understanding of clergy sexual abuse. In this book however, Drs. Thomas Plante and Kathleen McChesney provide their unique insights gained from dealing directly with the toughest parts of the crisis in the Catholic Church. They, and the book's other contributors, have a deep understanding of this horrible evil in our Church—a Church that has been greatly wounded by this scandal and needs to be healed. All of us who have suffered with the victims will learn much from this book. and it will greatly assist in the healing of the Church and in creating structures that prevent these abuses from ever happening again.”—Sister Carol Keehan, DC, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Catholic Health Association of the United States (CHA)

“Practical and effective reform can be the legacy of this book! Everyone who cares about protecting children from sexual abuse by trusted others should read this sourcebook on clergy sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. Seen from the perspectives of those most knowledgeable—both inside and outside the church—the authors explain the why and how of sexual exploitation of adolescents by those charged with protecting them.” —Charol Shakeshaft, PhD, Professor and Chairperson, Department of Educational Leadership, Virginia Commonwealth University
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