Published on April 20, 2014 by Joe Navarro, M.A. in Spycatcher
The eye-catching headline read, “Which Professions Have The Most Psychopaths?” (The Week, October 30, 2013) What ensued was quite a dialogue on the internet, as everyone seemed to have their own favorite picks or a personal horror story. The article stimulated debate, but unfortunately did not add clarity to a worthy subject. And that subject is: Why would a so-called “psychopath” be found in greater numbers in one profession versus another?
According to the article, CEO positions attract the most psychopaths. Perhaps so, if one considers the history of Enron, Bernard Madoff, and movies such as “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013). But the one career that caught my eye, and that 30 years ago probably would have escaped me, is that of the clergy (8th in line behind law enforcement, according to the article). I say 30 years ago because prior to the revelations relating to Catholic priests abusing children, one would not think of predators going into the clergy, yet that is a reality. Which begs the question, why a so-called “psychopath” would be attracted to the clergy? As it turns out, there are good reasons for this; that predators understand all too well—but first some caveats.
Unfortunately, the term psychopath is bandied about too much, making things murkier. There is a huge difference between a psychopath as defined by Robert Hare, a sociopath, someone with antisocial personality disorder, someone with conduct disorder, an aggressive narcissist, or someone with dissocial personality disorder. Unfortunately most people, even many clinicians, don’t differentiate, and we should. Too often these terms are lumped together, as in the above captioned article, and that can be confusing. There are distinctions between all these terms, and so rather than use this vague and overused term (psychopath), I will call these individuals predators, which encompasses all of the above noted disorders and pathologies.
I should also note that I am not writing this article to criticize any particular religion, because any religious group, as history has taught us, can be taken advantage of by predators or malignant zealots. Rather, it is an analysis of why predators would choose to imbed themselves within a religious organization or seek to be part of the clergy—so that we can be more aware in order to protect our loved ones and ourselves. Knowing what we do now, it is fitting that we examine predators among the clergy and how they would use their office or a religious organization to take advantage of others.
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