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Personality and cognitive functioning among hospitalized sexual offending Roman Catholic priests


A tremendous amount of media attention has been directed towards sexual abuse perpetrated by Roman Catholic priests in recent years. While there are countless research studies on both sexual abuse victims and perpetrators in the professional literature, very few have specifically investigated Roman Catholic priests who sexually abuse minors. The purpose of this study is to investigate the role of personality and cognitive variables among hospitalized sex offending Roman Catholic priests using specific MMPI-2, WAIS-R, and Halstead-Reitan measurements. Specifically, the role of defensive coping styles as measured by the L, K, O-H, and R scales of the MMPI-2 along with IQ scores from the WAIS-R and the Halstead impairment index were investigated. A total of 160 Roman Catholic priests (80 who sexually abused minors and 80 nonabusing control patients) hospitalized in a private psychiatric facility specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of clergy were evaluated. Results suggest that overcontrolled-hostility (O-H) was the most reliable predictor of group membership while Verbal IQ approached statistical significance. Implications for further research are offered.

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Correspondence to Thomas G. Plante.

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Plante, T.G., Manuel, G. & Bryant, C. Personality and cognitive functioning among hospitalized sexual offending Roman Catholic priests. Pastoral Psychol 45, 129–139 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02260019

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  • Sexual Abuse
  • Coping Style
  • Cross Cultural Psychology
  • Reliable Predictor
  • Cognitive Variable