Differences Mark Cases, Experts Say
Accused Clergymen Fit Various Sexual Profiles
By Ben Winton
May 23, 1993
The Rev. George Bredemann.
The Rev. Mark Lehman.
The Rev. Alanson "Lan" Sherwood.
These are the names burned into the memories of many Valley Roman Catholics. By the laws of church and state, each has been publicly branded a sex offender.
Bredemann and Lehman were convicted of molesting children. Sherwood awaits trial for allegedly asking a 17-year-old boy for sex.
Despite the similar sounding stories of each, there are significant differences among them and their alleged misdeeds, experts say.
Few homosexuals are child molesters, and not all child molesters are homosexuals, experts say.
In addition, psychiatrists say there are at least two different types of child molesters. Pedophiles are sexually attracted to prepubescent children of either sex. Ephebophiles prefer adolescent children -- not preadolescents -- as sex partners.
Understanding these distinctions is vital, experts say, as the U.S. Catholic Church struggles to blend modern psychology with longstanding theological views on how to treat sexual misdeeds.
"I can go in and confess that I've had several one-night stands out of gay bars, and simply be told to say three Hail Marys and that'll be the end of it," said a gay Phoenix priest who asked not to be named.
"But if I confess that I'm in a committed, loving relationship with another man, and that my life has improved because of it, I risk losing my job and getting kicked out of the church."
Celibacy not the cause
Although the church still brands homosexual activity a sin, psychologists no longer consider homosexuality a mental or behavioral disorder. Just as important, psychologists say, homosexuality is not necessarily linked to child molestation.
"The two are very distinct," said Sister Fran Ferder, a clinical psychologist. "The majority of pedophiles are married men that molest girls."
Although a small percentage of homosexuals do molest children, "homosexuality is a sexual orientation," said Ferder, co-director of a Seattle group that treats priests and lay ministers nationwide. "Pedophilia is a psychosexual disorder. The two have no more necessary connection with each other than apples have with roller skates."
Celibacy does not cause homosexuality, pedophilia or ephebophilia, she said.
Bredemann and Lehman were convicted of molesting children in the late 1980s. Because their victims had not yet reached adolescence, the men are categorized as pedophiles.
Experts say Sherwood's case is more complex.
Police arrested Sherwood in March after he allegedly tried to force a 17-year-old boy to have sex. Authorities found a diary containing the names of more than 1,800 male sex partners -- most of them adults.
If true, that means Sherwood is a homosexual who may have a sexual addiction and tendencies toward ephebophilia, said Dr. Fred Berlin, founder of the sexual disorders clinic at Johns Hopkins University.
What is generally agreed about child molesters of either type is that there is no cure. But individuals can learn to control their behavior through therapy, he said.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.