Saturday, 15 December 2012

No Fr Rolheiser, paedophilia is not a disease: it's a crime!

I haven't looked at aCatholica for some time, but happened to have a look following up something else, and found them today lauding a piece by liberal favourite Fr Ron Rolheiser CMI on coping the with the abuse crisis.

The dangerous cult of psychology

Unfortunately, a large part of Fr Rolheiser's piece is an argument for acceptance of the implications of the medical model of sexual abuse.  This medical model portrays paedophilia as a disease, with the implication that the perpetrator is somehow not to blame:

"A comparison can be made to alcoholism: If we could roll the clock back 60 or 70 years, we would see that society then had no understanding of alcoholism as a disease. It naively thought that the problem was simply a failure of willpower: "Why don't they just stop drinking?" Now we recognize that it's a sickness and must be understood and treated as such."

I'm not disputing that addiction can have a physical component, and might require more than just an awareness of the seriousness of the problem and will power to treat.

But I do think there are serious dangers to the adoption of the 'disease' model for things that really just need to be recognized as serious sins for which the perpetrator is actually capable of being held responsible.

Indeed, in my view it was the bishops' adoption of the disease model of paedophilia - with the implication sold to them by the pseudo-scientist high priests of the cult of psychology that it can be 'treated' and perhaps eventually 'cured' - that got the Church into this mess in the first place.

Ditching the concept of personal responsibility

No doubt there are a small proportion of sexual abusers who are indeed sociopaths without conscience or compassion.  Quite how they ever made it into the priesthood or into jobs such as teaching is a key question that has yet to be answered.

Yet surely the evidence is that the great majority of abusers know what they were doing, but rationalise their behaviour away as 'not really a sin' - as sinners typically do.

They act as King David did in his sinful pursuit of Bethsheba, even to the point of having her husband killed; even to the point having to be told that they are the sinner in the parable told to them.

But the real horror of the abuse crisis is that rather than being confronted by a prophetic figure like Nathan, to call them to repentance and to acceptance of their punishment, they were met with appeasers who did not view their crimes as particularly serious and seem incapable of feeling genuine empathy with the victims.

Fr Rolheiser advocates that we find compassion for the perpetrators.  Frankly, there has been far too much of that; far to much concern for 'preserving the priesthood', or the reputation of the Church.  What is needed when it comes to the perpetrators is less compassion, and a great deal more 'tough love'.

Virtue and self-control

Part of this tough love is the recovery of more traditional approaches to the training of priests, including a fresh appreciation of the value of 'willpower'.

It is true that psychology went through a phase in the 70s of discounting the value of will-power.

It is true that many in the Church went through a phase of rejecting that quaint old-fashioned Thomist notion that our ability to control ourselves is built up by training in asceticism.

Yet the traditional idea that the control of vice (self-control, impulse control) depends on the practice of virtue and asceticism is increasingly making a comeback even amongst psychologists.

Indeed, a recent official anti-smoking campaign in Australia actually referred to building up your willpower through attempts to quit smoking.

The recovery of this traditional notion (backed by a millenia of experience and rejected under the influence of poorly conducted experiments in the 70s) is one of the key reasons why the Church needs to bring back traditional practices such as a longer Eucharistic fast, and Friday abstinence.

Carrying the scandal 'biblically'

Fr Rolheiser claims to draw some lessons from Scripture on how to carry the scandal biblically.  Yet he seems to omit a number of the more obvious ones.

If we truly want to 'carry a scandal biblically' we need to recover the Biblical concepts of traditional morality; of acceptance of the idea that crimes have consequences, and deserve punishment and penance, not just instant absolution; and that fasting and penitential practices should be part of the ordinary life of all Catholics, but most especially of priests and religious.

Most importantly, we need all of those concerned to take responsibility for their actions, both individually and collectively, and face up to the consequences of doing so.


A Canberra Observer said...

Rolheiser has form on 'novel' teaching on sexuality, and yes he is beloved of liberals. Indeed I heard one local deacon praising him and citing him for what I thought was a rather untraditional talk about sexuality.

Aged parent said...

This is all of a piece with the strange notions called "sexual orientation" or "same-sex attraction", as if these are clinical, neutral issues that have no bearing on a person's moral stance.

The invention of these two terms has been a boon to the homosexual mafia who, when discovered in some horrendous outrage, can fall back on the argument that they are "born that way" and thus have no control over their actions. Even the modernists infesting the Vatican have bought into this, with dire consequences for the Church.

"Sexual orientation" is a fake, a smokescreen. We are not oriented toward hopmosexual depravity any more than we are oriented toward murder or grand theft. These are sins that are freely committed. And if we go back to our trusty pre-1984 catechisms we will note that one can sin in three ways (though of varying degrees of seriousness): by thought, word and deed.

We must be ever on our guard when discussing these issues. We must never, not ever, use the word "gay" to describe buggery and all its horrors. When someone starts to pontificate on "sexual orientation" or "same sex attraction" we should kindly but firmly slap down these sophistries.

And perhaps, just perhaps, if the Church from the Pope on down would start talking about sin again then maybe we could bring some common sense back into the discussion of this most unnamable of perversions.

Fr Levi said...

Not sure where Fr R is going with this idea. Being an alcoholic is not a 'get out of jail free card' when it comes to drunk driving or any offense committed while under the influence. That people who abuse children are sick is a no-brainer; that it lessons their moral culpability for their sins/crimes is brainless nonsense.

PM said...

You are onto something very important here. Any accounting of what went wrong inthe abuse crisis will have to reckon with the invasion of 'education' and 'spirituality' by 1960s pop psycholgy, under the influnece of Rogers ('non-directive' counselling, Kinsey on sex and Jung on befriending one's shadow, etc etc). An audit of the American Psychiatric Associations's Diagnostic and Statistical manuals would, I am told, reveal a complacent attitude to paedophilia as it affected both perpetrator and victim. But I suspect there are too many vested interests at stake for this ever to happen: try to get 'progressives' to be transparent about their own record and see how far you get.

This is not, by the way, to suggest all was perfect beforehand. A good friend who was in pre-Council Manly seminary says spiritual direction was very haphazard and anyone who kept his head down, didn't visibly break house rules, and parroted the cribbed notes that circulated could get through without a lot of scrutiny. Moreover, there was a lot of legalism and voluntarism in moral formation - it all came across as extrinsic - which made a particularly toxic mix when the 'let it all hang out' mentality came along in the 1960s and dissolved established boundaries.

Kate Edwards said...

(Posted on behalf of David)

An interesting post.

1. In relation to alcoholism, the experience of AA is that the alcoholic is afflicted not by a lack of will power, but an excess of self-will; a disordered will if you like. This is accompanied by a physiological abnormality in the body's response to alcohol. The solution for many is to turn one's "will and life over to the care of God"; it is continence through Grace and perseverance in spiritual living. It is no coincidence that their programme though indifferentist theologically, contains elements of confession, reparation and prayer.

2. Though we are all subject to concupiscence of the flesh, we are clearly not all tempted in the same way. Many struggle against unnatural temptations through prayer and mortification and asceticism.

3. It is clear that some people are powerfully attracted to acts that the majority find repugnant; therein lies the disorder at the heart of paedophilia and homosexuality. The presence of such disorders makes one unsuited for the priesthood; but the sin lies in giving oneself over to impurity of thought, of word or of deed. To the contrary, virtue lies in struggle against the disorder; in prayer and asceticism and striving for a chaste life in accordance with the will of God.

4. In discussing sexual behaviour, one must be careful to distinguish between the affliction of a possibly unwanted desire, and the response of the individual to that desire. To assert, as one poster here appears to, that we're all equally attracted to the idea of buggering our neighbour’s goat, but that some of us are just so very good at resisting the chevrine allure, belies all common sense.

5. Fr Levi says it well: “That people who abuse children are sick is a no-brainer; that it lessons their moral culpability for their sins/crimes is brainless nonsense.”.


East of Nowhere said...

2nd'ing Fr. Levi and Kate, the comparison to alcoholism is important to bear in mind: widespead acceptance of alcoholism as a disease has not proven to be mutually exclusive with personal responsibility, either in law (drunk driving is still prosecuted pretty severely) or in theology (nothing in the "A.A." model contradicts Christian notions of sin, repentance, or virtue).

Furthermore, that a sickness can (not necessarily does so, but can) lesson an individual's personal moral culpability is Catholicism 101 so let's watch what we're calling brainless nonsense here.

Not that the question of anyone's moral culpability ought even to be relevant to the issue of how practically to deal with problems of abuse. "…although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God."