The politics of Sex Abuse in sacred hierarchies: A comparative study of the Catholic Church and the Military in the United States

Carolyn M. Warner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations


The paper explores similarities in patterns of abuse and in patterns of how the known abuse cases are handled by the Catholic church and the U.S. military and develops preliminary explanations of why. The paper considers how the two organizations deal with external efforts by civil authorities at oversight and prosecution, and the extent to which they invoke their sacred status authority to evade responsibility and civilian oversight. The paper finds that the handling of sex abuse in each organization has been affected partly by the institutions seeing themselves as sacred, as something apart from the secular state, beholden to alternative authorities. The paper highlights the fact that child sex abuse by religious offcials and sexual assault of soldiers by fellow soldiers and offcers constitute profound challenges for democracy in the US and elsewhere, as the institutions claim and may be accorded separate and privileged status, beyond the reach of democratic laws and procedures. It is a warning about the costs of public deference to other institutions. The study utilizes documentation of Catholic church clergy child sex abuse cases in the US, and documentation of sex abuse cases in the US military.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number281
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2019



  • Catholic church
  • Clergy child sex abuse
  • Institutions
  • Military
  • Sacred
  • Sexual assault

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies

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