Psychotherapist Warning over Church Abuse

RTE News

November 13, 2008

A leading psychotherapist has warned that Vatican plans to 'screen' student priests may not put a stop to child sexual abuse by clerics unless the Catholic Church introduces far-reaching changes.

Writing in The Irish Catholic, Marie Keenan warned that while screening is attractive to some conservative bishops, it's a mistaken approach if seminaries and clerical life are not also scrutinised.

Dr Keenan is a UCD academic who has worked extensively with sex offenders and who mediated at a meeting of the hierarchy during the clerical child abuse crisis in Ferns.

Her article challenges the Vatican's recent recommendation that seminarians undergo 'psychological evaluations' and that their training be interrupted if they demonstrate grave immaturity like difficulties with the celibate life.

Dr Keenan disputes that existing screening for many Irish dioceses prevents sexual offending.

While not dismissing it altogether, she cites several studies indicating that psychological profiles of clergy offenders are not much different from 'normal' clergy and that they demonstrate little abnormal psychology.

She says we must look beyond individual psychology and to what happens to clergy in seminaries and in living as Catholic priests.

Her research indicated seminarians' normal vulnerabilities are not addressed in the course of their professional training and that clergy who've abused have been poorly trained for celibate living.

She concludes that if the Church really wants to look further into preventing boundary violations by its clergy, it should openly and frankly review its theology of sexuality, seriously overhaul its governance structures and review its power relations and the operations of clerical culture.


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