Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)


Graduate Department of Clinical Psychology

First Advisor

Nancy Thurston, PsyD

Second Advisor

Mark McMinn, PhD

Third Advisor

Kathleen Gathercoal, PhD


Guilt, particularly around sexuality, is a concept commonly associated with those who practice Catholicism. Additionally, women in the United States (US) often navigate many mixed messages surrounding sexuality. Women who are raised in religious traditions that hold strong messages about the importance of one’s sexuality and its expression may have a particularly complicated relationship with their body and sexual experiences. Nonconsensual sexual experiences also further complicate one’s self image and self-esteem. The purpose of this study is to examine the potential correlations between one’s level of religiosity, shame, and sexual attitudes. These themes were investigated through the implementation of a mixed methods study consisting of three quantitative questionnaires and three qualitative open-ended questions which was completed by 262 previously and currently Catholic female-identified individuals. Three hypotheses were offered and not supported. First, I expected that religious commitment would correlate positively with traditional sexual attitudes, but this hypothesis was not supported. Second, I predicted that traditional sexual attitudes would correlate positively with shame, but when correlations on these variables were significant they were in the opposite direction of what was expected. Third, I expected religious commitment to be associated with shame, but no relationship was found between the two variables. Subsequent analyses demonstrated age group differences in sexual permissiveness and that former Catholics are more open to birth control than current Catholics. Qualitative questions were also asked and results are described. The findings suggest that departure from one’s previous Catholic faith tradition has an impact on one’s view of self and sexual attitudes.