Spotlighting clergy sexual misconduct against adults in the Catholic Church, and supporting the victims/survivors thereof.

Welcome to Catholic Spotlight This website is open to all. The Catholic Spotlight Poll and Catholic Spotlight Survey tabs above are for those who, as adults, have experienced clergy sexual misconduct and who want to say “me too”. This Home (Comments) page is where anyone can present their personal stories, their knowledge of, or comments about clergy sexual misconduct against adults. This is also where the results of the poll and the survey will be presented and discussed. For privacy and legal reasons, real names of people or places should not be given. However, you are encouraged to use your own real name when commenting but given the sensitive nature of this issue, pseudonyms are completely understandable. All contributions given in the right spirit, will be treated with utmost respect.

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  • This Comments page will be a reality-based forum where clergy sexual misconduct against adults is primarily described and defined by those who have experienced it first hand as victims/survivors. As well, secondary victims such as relatives and friends are more than welcome to share their stories. However, clergy, along with anyone else, are also most welcome to respectfully present their own stories, concerns, experiences or knowledge about this issue, or to offer support for victims/survivors in some way.

    While this is a distressing topic and there will no doubt be material shared here which is very upsetting, it is hoped that this discussion will also be highly informative, healing, and inspirational. However, in order to protect others, I will reserve the right to delete any disrespectful comments or those which attack people rather than discuss points. Having been on a number of forums myself, (and been guilty myself) I know that we all carry within us a tendency to become aggressive or blindly angry, but I ask that this tendency be personally controlled. Having said this though, mature assertiveness is necessary for victims/survivors and their supporters, and righteous anger is understandable and acceptable here.

    This is a very controversial issue, not to mention one that many would rather see kept out of the spotlight. But as we have seen in recent developments in the culture of Hollywood and its systemic covering up and hypocrisy regarding sexual assault and abuse, once the lid is lifted, what we find is deeply troubling and much more encompassing than anyone wants to believe. I just hope this website goes some way to spotlighting clergy sexual misconduct against adults and to assisting the victims/survivors thereof.

    One more point: If you do write a comment here, please take time to consider whether you truly want to. I understand the vulnerability of victims/survivors. I understand the desire to tell one’s story, and we all so need to hear them if this issue is going to be dealt with, but I also understand that sometimes, when we do, we later become anxious about having done so. I understand. I can edit or remove regretted comments for you. Just go to Contact me and let me know.

    So, let’s talk.


    • OK, I’ll go first:

      For those struggling with the effects of clergy sexual abuse whether as a child or an adult.

      I always remember a line from “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom…”There is no pit so deep, that God is not deeper still”.

      Ten years ago I had a massive breakdown because of the effects of my own abuse. Since that day I have slowly but surely struggled back to where I am now. Another thing someone once said to me made a huge difference in me starting to recover. Around 10 years ago, I went to a men’s group healing session (I was a complete emotional wreck at the time) and during the debriefing, I asked in desperation and exasperation: “How long am I going to feel little a bloody victim for?” and the therapist said…”For as long as you need to”.

      My God, in that one statement, he gave me the permission to enter into the victim mode properly, not as a mode of existence, but as a period of healing, which was totally acceptable and indeed necessary to enter ….a period and process where I could finally say, ‘Yes, I am a victim and a mess and want to start dealing with this properly’.

      But you know what this statement (“for as long as I need to”) also said? That this period of victimhood WOULD come to an end, and there would come a time that I would become a survivor instead, or simply just a relatively happy person again, no longer triggered back into trauma by memories or sadness or fear,…But it was even more than that.

      Going through all this, I somehow became someone who now had a wealth of human experience in pain and vulnerability but also in the healing process, some deep psychological (and spiritual) insights, profound self knowledge and awareness, all which paradoxically, I simply wouldn’t have acquired in any other way. So, abuse/crucifixion/trauma/hell, which, in my case, I processed with the help of a wonderful psychiatrist who specialised in child and adult abuse and trauma, can all give way to new life, depth and wisdom.

      It will happen to you. You may be struggling to stay afloat, or just starting out on the healing process, or you may be already well on the way. Where ever you are, give yourself permission to be there …for as long as you need to be…but consciously accept that the dark spaces will become fewer, shorter and further apart. And realise deeply that on this journey, you are and will continue to learn deeply profound human truths and paradoxically, instead of your joys having been turned to ashes through abuse and disillusionment and the crushing of trust, those ashes will now turn into diamonds of wisdom, compassion and empathy for yourself, and anyone who suffers. Take on your victim hood, but don’t grasp it or let it become your identity…realise you will let it go someday, when you no longer need it.



      Hi all. This will be the first update of the survey. It’s early days and I am very grateful for those who have completed the survey to date.

      4 women and 2 men have completed the survey.

      The 2 men are currently in the 58-67 age bracket; 2 of the women also in the 58-67 age bracket and the other 2 women in the 28-37 age bracket.

      All 6 clergy were/are priests: 4 Religious Order and 2 Diocesan.

      1 participant is from Ireland, another from Italy and the other 4 are Australian.

      The 4 women were in the following age brackets when the misconduct occurred:
      18-27 and
      The two men experienced the misconduct during the following ages and periods of time:
      18-27 – a one off occasion;
      38-47 – for 1-2 years.

      For the 4 women, the following were given for time spans:
      It lasted for more than 20 years;
      It lasted for 2-5 years;
      It was a one-off occasion;
      It lasted for 1-2 years.

      Regarding the way the misconduct began all 4 women answered thus:
      It was preceded by grooming and subtle manipulation
      The 2 men answered thus:
      It was opportunistic and sudden;
      It was opportunistic and sudden and it was forced and aggressive

      Regarding a general description of the misconduct, the 4 women respondents gave the following:
      Torn apart;
      Narcissistic abuse; and
      Assault / Aggression / intimidation / manipulation / gas-lighting / Control.
      The 2 men gave:
      It was defined as indecent assault by a police officer;
      I don’t know.

      All respondents chose all damage categories (Physically|Emotionally|Psychologically|Spiritually|Financially|Relationally) with only 2 leaving out ‘Physical’.


      It is clear from even this small number of participants that clergy sexual misconduct against adults (CSMAA) comes in many forms and spans across most age brackets. It is also clear that it is a very damaging/harmful phenomenon. It is also clear that CSMAA means different things to different people and, according to my own study to date, this can be attributed to the fact that it is a greatly mis-understood phenomenon, mis-understood by victims/survivors as well as clergy and the Church as a whole. This is not the case in other professions and one could ask why, of most (caring) ‘professions’, it is the Church which has the most ambiguous or ambivalent approach to the sexual activity of its professional members/clergy. Any comments??? Clergy themselves are more than welcome to comment here as well.

  • Hi Stephen and anyone else reading.
    Today has been one of those days where I have had to actively work at keeping quiet. I have been outside in the garden a fair bit of the time.Breathing has become an important way for me to alleviate the voices in the head that seem to want to endlessly lure me in.
    Thankyou so much for making a start. I have not much to say just today(It is sometimes like that), other than I too am a survivor of adult sexual abuse and am grateful to have a forum that hopefully over time will draw others in, where they can feel safe and accepted and believed.
    I am not sure whether to be encouraging others yet or whether you are happy to make sure everything is working before going ahead.
    Also I think the “MeToo” is so appropriate and I hope that if people in positions of influence get on here and see what could be possible, it could well be means for significant and profound change.

    • Thank you Sheila. I think most things are working now, but it’s new to me so I’m still very much learning as I go. If anyone does experience issues with the site, please use the ‘Contact me’ and let me know. I look forward to hearing from you again in the future. I know this hasn’t been easy for you but I do hope that this site will go someway towards helping you deal with your case.

      Take care.


  • Here’s a question I’d like visitors to consider and comment on.

    Should victims/survivors report their abuse as an adult, to the police, or to Church officials, or to both?

  • Preview of Catholic Spotlight Survey.

    This survey is only for women and men who have experienced clergy sexual misconduct since turning 18. If this does NOT describe you, please do not open or begin this survey. If this DOES describe you, please read ALL of the following before proceeding.

    Whether you are a male or female, or are / were a clergy-person yourself, this short survey is a chance for you to say that you, too, have experienced some form of unwanted clergy sexual misconduct. No one except me will be able to view what you answers and comments.

    Clergy sexual misconduct is defined here as the misuse or abuse of the positional and personal power that a cleric holds by virtue of belonging to the clergy of the Catholic Church, to target and over-power, whether subtly or forcefully, the vulnerabilities of another less powerful person, in order to sexually use them, with little or no mature regard for that person, or the effects of such activity on them.

    The term ‘clergy’ here means any member of the diocesan priesthood, any member of the Church hierarchy, or any member of a religious order or congregation, whether male or female.

    If you have experienced clergy sexual misconduct with more than one different cleric, you can repeat this survey for each different cleric.

    Please read Question 1 carefully before proceeding.

    Where “Other” appears in the possible responses, you can write what you want freely if the given answers do not cover what you want to say.

    Try to choose the most applicable responses. If you make a mistake or want to change a given response, just click on the incorrect response again, and then click on the one you wanted. If doing so happens to shut down the survey, you can begin the survey again.

    Choose your responses carefully as you cannot go back to previous questions…DO NOT USE THE BROWSER “BACK” BUTTON. Doing so will close the survey. If this does occur, you can begin the survey again.

    If the survey freezes (which it has occasionally for unknown reasons), you have to (unfortunately) start again.

    You can quit the survey at any time: However, if you do quit before completing the whole survey, what you have done to that point will be lost.

    Only data from completed surveys is saved.

    Thank you.


    Q. 1: Only generalised information from your contribution here will be used. If names are given, they will not be used, or pseudonyms will be provided. Do you consent to completing this survey and for your responses to be used to inform academic and religious discussion on this issue?
    A) Yes…[Survey will continue] B) No…[Survey will close].

    Q. 2: Some adults have experienced clergy sexual misconduct with more than one clergy person. This survey can be repeated if this has been the case for you. However, you need to choose which one of the following this particular survey completion is for, before proceeding. Responses: Clergy person 1; Clergy person 2; Clergy person 3; Clergy person 4; Other.

    Q. 3: In which age bracket do you currently fall?

    Q. 4: With which of the following do you identify? (Possible responses: Female lay person; Male lay person; Female vowed religious; Male vowed religious/priest; Female student religious; Male student religious/priest; Other)

    Q. 5: In which country do you currently live?

    Q. 6: Which of the following describe/s the sexual misconduct? (Possible responses: It was a one-off occassion; It lasted for up to a year; It lasted for 1-2 years; It lasted for 2-5 years; It lasted for 5-10 years; It lasted for 10-20 years; It lasted for more than 20 years; It is still occurring; Other.

    Q. 7: What was your country of residence – where the misconduct took place?

    Q. 8: In what year/s did the misconduct occur? (You can choose more than one response).

    Q. 9: What age were you when the sexual misconduct occurred?(You may choose more than 1 response).

    Q. 10: Which of the following describes you at the time the misconduct occurred? (Possible responses: Female lay person; Male lay person; Female vowed religious; Male vowed religious/priest; Female student religious; Male student religious/priest; Other)

    Q. 11: What was the status of the misconducting clergyperson? (Possible responses: Father (Diocesan); Father (Religious Order); Brother; Bishop; Sister; Deacon; Male student religious/priest; Female student religious; Other).

    Q. 12: How would you describe the general religious approach of the cleric/s? (Possible responses: Conservative; Liberal; Middle of the road; I don’t know; Other).

    Q. 13: In hindsight, how would you describe the initial misconduct event? (If you wish to elaborate, you can use the ‘Other’ space). (Possible responses: It was preceded by grooming and subtle manipulation; It was opportunistic and sudden; It was forced and aggressive; It was something that just happened; Other).

    Q. 14: While ALL sexual misconduct is serious, on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most serious, what is the worst rating you would give regarding what happened to you?

    Q. 15: Has your experience of clergy sexual misconduct affected you in any of the following ways? (You may choose more than one response. You may elaborate below if you wish). (Possible responses: Physically; Emotionally; Psychologically; Spiritually; Financially; Relationally; Other).

    Q. 16: Have you reported the misconduct to a Church official?
    A) Yes; B) No. (If you wish to, please include the main reason/s why you haven’t reported, in the ‘Other’ space below). (If “no” survey skips to Q. 20.)

    Q. 17: To whom did you report? (Possible responses: Towards Healing; The Melbourne Response; The Bishop of the diocese; The Provincial of the Religious Order; The Police; Other)

    Q. 18: In what year did you report the misconduct? (You can give the actual year in “Other”)

    Q. 19: Which 2 of the following responses best sum up your experience of reporting? (Possible responses: I was believed; I was held in suspicion; It was a healing experience; It retraumatised me; I believe the response was genuine; I do not believe the response was genuine; I do not regret reporting the misconduct; I regret reporting the misconduct; Other).

    Q. 20: Have you felt or been threatened or pressured in any way to keep silent about your experience/s of clergy sexual misconduct?
    A) Yes. (If you wish, you can elaborate in the ‘Other’ space below); B) No.

    Q. 21: If there was one word, phrase or definition you could choose to define what happened to you, what would it be? (Try to come up with one but you can write “I don’t know”).

    Q. 22: If you wish, you can tell your story further here about what occurred to you, or, make any comments regarding your experience and this issue as a whole.

    If answered “Yes” to Q. 1: Thank you for taking this survey. In doing so you are helping others and yourself to deal with this issue. It is my hope to use this data in some way to influence the Church to take you and your experience more seriously than it has. I feel privileged to have ‘met’ you, albeit through this brief survey.

    It is my hope that my work and your contribution here will somehow help you find support from others in some way. Please know that you are not at all alone in your experience/s and there are many others in the same boat as you. Stay tuned to this website for possible connections being made between victims/survivors of clergy sexual misconduct against adults.

    If you have become distressed by taking part here, please talk to someone you trust.

    Remember, sometimes stress can be the pressure within the flower bud, forcing it to bloom.

    If answered “No” to Q. 1: That’s completely OK and understandable. If you haven’t done so and wish to, you can still register you experience by taking the “Catholic#MeToo Poll”.
    If by any chance you change your mind for Q. 1 you can always return and take the survey. Thank you. I understand. Take care.

  • For the male victims/survivors who may come here; but it also applies to female victims/survivors of clergy sexual misconduct against adults, or, CSMAA for short.

    This is a quote from a young male victim from Kathryn Byrne’s study (p. 44…see links). It shows you what men in particular are up against but it certainly reflects the sadly widespread beliefs, attitudes and behaviours of Church officials and many laity, when the victims of clergy abuse is over 18 years old.

    When I reported my abuse to the Archdiocese of [city], they told me I should have known better…I was an adult. When I asked the official of the Archdiocese if it were possible for an adult to be abused, he answered, not in your case…our priest told us that it was consensual. When I asked him if the police report from the [city] police department would convince him, he said, probably not. When I asked him if the former brother, now a priest, would be removed, he answered, no…we’re getting him help, we don’t remove priests when the sex is consensual. When I reminded him that I was asleep when the priest climbed into the bed with me, he told me it was his opinion that I gave him some indication that I wanted it. When I asked if I qualified for psychological counseling, he said we might consider it.

    But, you know what, many Catholics are saying the same things. Many Catholics believe that the crisis is not as bad as we survivors describe. Many believe that the reports are overblown and overdone. Many do not want to hear these stories. But until we get over the resistance, we just won’t get it.

  • Stephen; i could cry with happiness to see you’ve started your own blog..Great to see the break-through into the light of day. 😀
    .i can relate very much with your personal account because #metoo!
    I would love to share my story with you in future because i get the sense that you truly understand & have real compassion and integrity when it comes
    to this issue. I feel like i have so much i would love to share with you. ♥

    • Hi Doves. So good to get your response. While this website is not formally attached to my PhD study, it is hoped that those who come here may be able to participate in some way with the more formal study as well, should they wish to. So, it would be good to hear your story some time. Once I have been granted ethics approval (hopefully early next year), I will be calling for participants so you might want to consider this then.

      I’m so happy that finding this website has been some support for you; this is one of the main reasons for starting it. I know without a doubt that there are thousands and thousands of women and men in your/our position but who are isolated by fear, guilt, mis-perceptions and judgemental attitudes. We need to know that each of us exists and we need to talk with each other. This is exactly what got clergy child abuse exposed. By finding out they weren’t alone, they started talking with each other and more and more came out of the dark, ending with the huge exposure, inquiries etc but ending more hopefully, in the start of healing for so many, and the real effect on the future protection of children. So, good for you for commenting here. I’m also glad you did because I thought that the website wasn’t working, because, while it appears people have visited the site, there has for some time now, been no responses. Things take time. But, spread the word in your own way.

      Take care, Doves750 and let us and all who visit here be supports for each other.


  • Just don’t mention the Christian Girls in Rotherham.or the religion of their abusers.

    • jamspid, there are so many important causes to work for…the one you mention is another one. I hope you are working to find justice for the victims of that form of sexploitation. It’s horrible whatever its face.

  • Thank you to all those who have taken the short survey. I will update the results again soon. I have been very busy with my study.

    Please continue to spread the word about this site. I hope you also make it your own in some way – a place where you can share your experiences and insights with each other.

    Go gently.

  • Oh, forgot to mention….If you do take the survey, make sure you add yourself to the ‘metoo’ ‘poll’, and visa versa.

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