BY CAROL GLATZ
PAEDOPHILES may be attracted to the priesthood because they see ordination as a kind of “magic healing”, an influential Jesuit ournal has suggested.
The article, in the Rome-based a Civilti Cattolica, said an adult who suffered a clinical disorder such as paedophilia may seek religious life not with the intention of preying on victims, but because “many are tormented by these tendencies and see a kind of magic healing in the sacrament of ordination or consecration”.
Unfortunately, the article said, many who think a life of celibacy will help rid them of their sexual disorders actually become obsessed with their problem. It said many are able to control their impulses for the first 10 or 15 years of ministry, but “an unresolved sexual problem will surface sooner or later”.
The article, entitled “Psychological Observations of the Problem of Paedophilia”, was written by two professors of psychology at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, Jesuit Fr Giandomenico Mucci and Fr Hans Zollner, who is also a licensed psychologist and psychotherapist.
The bi-weekly La Civilti Cattolica magazine is reviewed by the Vatican Secretariat of State before publication.
Fr Mucci and Fr Zollner said in the article that an important part of preventing clergy sexual abuse was knowing the “red flags” for potential sex offenders.
They said the Church needed to recognise the seriousness of the sex abuse crisis “not just by punishing abusers, but above all by asking itself how to prepare healthy priests”.
In the wake of revelations of abuse by a clergy member, they said, it is often asked how this person was ever allowed to become a priest. They said: “In reality, it is still very difficult even today to single out with precision a future potential paedophile because many characteristics remain unknown and demand further study and research.” Often a priest or religious who poses a danger to children is discovered only after an allegation of abuse has been verified, they added.
It is extremely difficult to define with precision the outlook and personality of a typical paedophile, they said, because “an abuser rarely reveals his tendencies and how he thinks” and many instances of abuse are never even discovered. But they listed some so-called “red flags” that could indicate a person may have paedophile tendencies.
A severe lack of close and fulfilling relationships with other adults was one such factor, the priests said. Paedophiles would rather be with young people and, more often than not, they may consider their best friend to be a youngster.
Another factor, they said, was the kind of personality that would be considered “passive, introverted, dependent and falsely docile and submissive”. “However, in reality [he is] worried about pleasing his supe riors and covering up his own insecurities,” the priests said. A history of having been sexually abused as a child or having come from a home life that was verbally or physically violent or lacked affection and communication was another “red flag”, they said. About 30 per cent of sex offenders were abused as children, but not all victims of abuse grow up to become abusers themselves.
The article also listed a few “valuable lessons” to be learned from the revelations of the sexual abuse of children by clergy.
Some of the ways the Church could help bring more “clarity and reason to the public discussion” about the problem of clerical sex abuse was by visibly expressing its concern for victims, by helping victims gain healing and by collaborating with civil authorities, they said.
They added that the recent efforts by the archdioceses of Munich and Cologne in Germany and in Bolzano, Italy, were good examples of places where bishops are collaborating “pre-emptively” rather than defensively with civil authorities and the media.
The Church also needed to ask itself what kind of priests it wanted to have and how best to prepare them, they said.