Goals and Comments The goals of Module N are multifaceted. The first is to gain an understanding of situational and organizational factors related to abuse. It is striking that nearly two-thirds of sexual abuse of minors took place in a church-related setting. The physical location of most abuse was on church property or in residences. The timing was usually during or after church services and parish events or at recreational and social events. Note that most of the abuse occurred in ordinary situations where priests find themselves every day as they go about their ministry. Organizational factors are similar in terms of focus, that is, over 40 percent of abuse was perpetrated by associate pastors and 25 percent by pastors in parish situations. Lower percentages were represented by priests in residence in a parish, in diocesan offices, schools, and chaplaincies. The fact of greatest importance here is that most sexual abuse of minors by clergy takes place in relationship with and in proximity to parish ministry.
The second goal of Module N is to identify and understand the major typologies of sexual abusers and personality characteristics of clergy offenders. The first two types, fixated offenders and regressed offenders, are differentiated by the degree to which deviant sexual behavior is entrenched and the basis of the psychological condition that led to abuse. Fixated offenders are characterized by compulsive attraction to children and often have not attained any degree of psychosexual maturity. Their actions are premeditated and do not stem from stressors. They typically recruit vulnerable children. Fixated offenders are most dangerous, of highest risk to the community, and have the highest rate of recidivism. Regressed offendersusually begin offending as adults and their offenses are triggered by stressors in the environment, including disordered childhood relationships. Stressors can be situational and are often related to loneliness, isolation, or anxiety. They prefer that their victims cooperate, but should they resist, regressed offenders do not usually follow through with sexually abusive behavior.
FBI typologies categorize offenders as situational orpreferential. Offenders of the first type have poor coping skills and target victims who are accessible, either children or adults. They are often insecure misfits with low self-esteem. Preferential offenders court children and give them much attention and many enticements. Because of poor psychological development they are compulsively attracted to children and are aggressive and extremely dangerous.
The third goal of Module N relates to the phenomenon of grooming, which is pre-meditated behavior intended to manipulate a potential victim into complying with sexual abuse. Tactics may include seduction and testing of a child, emotional manipulation and verbal coercion. It may also involve catching the victim by surprise, using physical force, disguising sexual advances, and using alcohol and drugs. Building relationships to gain trust often precedes abuse and may take years to develop.
Finally, the fourth goal is to understand why abuse persists as offenders employ a variety of justifications and excuses, as well as deviance disavowal. Excuses include denial of responsibility and blaming the victim. Characteristics of accused priests are identified; justification for their actions, such as denying the wrongfulness and harmfulness of the behavior, and downplaying what actually occurred, are noted.