Sexual relationships between gurus and disciples
Sexual harassment in religious organizations
Failure to dismiss priests guilty of child molestation
Institutional cover-up of sexual misconduct by priests
Sexual abuse by holy men
Spiritual leaders may use their authority and charismatic power to create situations resulting in sexual relations with their followers. At one extreme this may be part of the belief system and practices of the religious group and considered acceptable by all concerned. It may be treated as a special favour discretely accorded to particular followers who belong to the leader's inner circle or who are chosen for it. In those groups where it conflicts with accepted practice, it may be the result of sexual harassment on the part of the leader, possibly encouraged by deluded behaviour on the part of a follower seeking particular attention.
Canon law of the Roman Catholic church provides serious penalties, including dismissal, for sexual misconduct and criminal behaviour, both of which are involved in molesting minors. But the law contains many procedures for protecting priests against unfounded accusations, and certain provisions that have made its strict enforcement difficult. For example, under canon law, priests cannot be penalized for acts that occurred more than five years ago, whereas the statute of limitations in American criminal and civil law has increasingly been extended for cases of sexual abuse of minors. Furthermore, if a priest molested a youth under a psychological compulsion, that condition can be cited in church law as a reason for mitigating the penalty.