Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Dianne Williams


The United States Catholic bishops have used their authority to address the child sexual abuse scandal, but it has been problematic that no one has yet evaluated their exercised leadership styles. In this phenomenological study, I explored U.S Catholic priests' perceptions of the bishops' leadership styles related to how they handled the child sexual abuse scandal. Knowing the bishops' leadership styles was paramount to fill the research gap. The theoretical frameworks underpinning this study were transformational leadership, transactional leadership, charismatic leadership, and servant leadership. Data collected through interviews with 11 Catholic priests revealed their perceptions of how the behavioral characteristics of each leadership style influenced the management of the child sexual abuse scandal. Collected data were deductively coded, then subjected to a thematic analysis procedure. The research findings highlighted the bishops' predominant use of servant leadership style. The resulting themes were that (a) the bishops felt they were forced to listen, (b) they lacked the charisma to convince, (c) they were more interested in protecting the church, and (d) they paid remunerations to victims. The U.S Catholic bishops would benefit from this study as it reveals the remaining gaps in their predominant use of servant leadership style. The positive social change implications point to the bishops' using this study to facilitate more effective leadership styles when handling and preventing similar future crises while collaborating with the clergy, the religious, the faithful, and law enforcement officials in creating and sustaining awareness of child abuse prevention policy to avert future harms.