Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Theology (ThD)

First Advisor

Fr. Francis Berna, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Donna Tonrey, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Fr. John Cella, OFM, JCD


The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland finds itself in a perilous state with its continuous trajectory of decline of influence and role in Irish society. A painful catalogue of revelations, beginning in the early 1990’s, regarding physical and sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults has been accompanied by a stark decline in vocations to the priesthood and religious life, as well as in church attendance. In this context the perpetrators, mainly clergy and male members of religious congregations, are generally dehumanized, demonized, and ignored by their superiors, colleagues, and the general public. This dissertation seeks to suggest a form of pastoral care toward the healing of the God image in those clergy who have sexually abused the young and vulnerable. Through a variety of longstanding influences both inside and outside the family of origin, it is hoped to suggest a form of pastoral care in the attempt to reconcile the God concept with the God image of such clergy and members of male religious congregations. With this in mind, notwithstanding the integrative contributions of other theories, and the necessity of accountability to the laws of the State regarding such perpetrators, this work focuses on some concepts from Psychodynamic and Cognitive psychotherapeutic theories in particular.