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Child Abuse Negl. 2000 Apr;24(4):535-45.

A study of clerics who commit sexual offenses: are they different from other sex offenders?

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



The goal of this study was to determine if cleric-sex offenders differed significantly from other sex offenders when compared to a control group and assessed with standard instruments that examine the major factors important in sexual offenses.


Twenty-four male clerics accused of sexual offenses were compared to 24 male sex offender controls, matched on offense type, age, education, and marital status. Both groups were compared to a general sample of sex offenders (n = 2125) matched only for offense type. The three groups were compared on sexual history and preference, substance abuse, mental illness and personality, history of crime and violence, neuropsychological impairment, and endocrine abnormalities, using reliable and valid measures.


The clerics in this study formed a statistically significant highly educated, older, and predominantly single subgroup of sex offenders. The majority of cleric-sex offenders suffered from a sexual disorder (70.8%), predominantly homosexual pedophilia, as measured by phallometric testing, but did not differ from the control groups in this respect. The clerics were comparable to the other two groups in most respects, but tended to show less antisocial personality disorders and somewhat more endocrine disorders. The most noteworthy features differentiating the clerics from highly educated matched controls were that clerics had a longer delay before criminal charges were laid, or lacked criminal charges altogether, and they tended to use force more often in their offenses.


In spite of differences in age, education, and occupation between cleric-sex offenders and sex offenders in general, the same procedures should be used in the assessment of this group as for the sex offender population in general. Hypotheses about reduced sexual outlet and increased sexual abuse of clerics in childhood were not supported. Assessment and treatment of cleric-sex offenders should focus especially on sexual deviance, substance abuse, and endocrine disorders.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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