There are similarities between the tactics of an abusing priest and an abusing coach or scout counselor: for example, the abuse itself almost always occurs in private and the offender carefully cultivates a close advisory relationship with the victim. In the case of a priest the abuse generally takes place in the church, an adjoining school, the parish residence, or a retreat house, although with males it might also occur, especially during outings, in vacation houses or hotel rooms. The abuse is often fueled with alcohol, drugs, and pornography.
The advantage the priest has over the abused minor is the respect and power Catholic communities, especially families, automatically bestow on the priest. “If this man is holy, a mediator between God and me,” the victim instructed in the Catholic faith may well reason, “surely that man would do nothing wrong,.” And sadly, the more seriously the minor takes the Catholic faith, the more vulnerable he or she is. Trust, combined with an opportune occasion, makes the abuse more, not less, likely to occur.
The priest may also “groom” his victim with favors like rides home, gift cards and baseball tickets. Or, if the minor shies away from the abuse, the priest may threaten his target with the possibility of taking away such privileges or all the “special time” he has already spent in the target’s company.
Males are less likely to report abuse than females, and it is difficult to know how long a priest’s abuse of either sex may have persisted. Reported abuse may have occurred years after the priest has been accused out of fear that the Church may question its credibility. As for unreported abuse, no one knows how much has taken place or may continue even now. All in all the priest abuser, however punished, still holds more cards than his victim as a result especially of all the hush, hush surrounding him.