Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Social Welfare

Content Description

1 online resource (x, 185 pages) : 1 illustration.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Eunju Lee

Committee Members

Katharine H. Briar-Lawson, Daniel R. Baillargeon


Catholic Church, Child Protection, Child Welfare, Policy Analysis, Sexual Abuse, Child abuse, Child welfare, Child sexual abuse by clergy, Child sexual abuse, Children

Subject Categories

Social Work


Since 2002, the Catholic Church in the United States has enacted a national child protection framework to address child sexual abuse. However, child protection policies within the context of the Catholic Church are currently not well understood. This study was guided by the following questions: (1) How do child protection policy dimensions differ in Catholic archdioceses in the United States? (2) How do child protection policy dimensions differ across and between Catholic archdioceses and civil statutes? The present study utilized a generic qualitative methodology employing comparative content analysis to conduct a policy analysis using publicly available child protection policies from Catholic archdioceses and civil statutes. Eleven different a priori policy dimensions were identified: Child maltreatment including, physical abuse, neglect, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse; historical sexual abuse of a minor; mandated reporters, clergy and laity; reporting process/ requirements: criminal, civil, and church authorities; and priest-penitent privilege. Afterwards, content analyses of policy dimensions were conducted and compared across two entities, Catholic archdiocesan child protection policies and differential civil child protection statutes, which were matched for comparison (N = 5) according to civil/diocesan jurisdictional alignment: Archdiocese of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; Archdiocese of Chicago and the State of Illinois; Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the State of California; Archdiocese of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana; and the Archdiocese of New York and the State of New York. Key findings were that (1) archdiocesan policies exceeded civil statutes by requiring sexual abuse, regardless of when the abuse occurred, to be reported to civil/criminal authorities and (2) priest-penitent privilege is a widely accepted exception to the requirement for priests to report child maltreatment, including sexual abuse, by archdiocesan policies and civil statutes. Despite progress made in recent decades, there remains a need to strengthen child welfare policy at the national and state levels as well as within private organizations. A national minimum standard could help ensure key child protection policy dimensions are consistently defined and operationalized across child protection systems, including public child protection agencies and private child and youth serving organizations such as the Catholic Church.

Included in

Social Work Commons