söndag 23 maj 2010

Paedophile priests - did the church really get it so wrong?

I came across this letter from a retired and well-respected psychiatrist, in the 10th April issue of The Tablet. It puts the issue of the Catholic Church's way of dealing with paedophile priests in quite a different light.

"In the light of my long experience in treating priests with sexual aberrations including pederasty, I have concluded that both the critics and supporters of the Pope and worldwide hierarchies are thinking wrongheadedly. However inanely they may have carried it out, these authorities were right to try to keep control over paedophile priests. In The Times of 26 March, the Archbishop of Westminster wrongly advised “fast-track dismissal from the clerical state for offenders” and there being for them “no hiding place”. It is precisely such a suitable hiding place that is needed for paedophile priests, albeit one that is extremely hard, sometimes impossible, to come by.

"Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, while Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, was severely criticised in the press when he placed an incorrigibly paedophile priest to the chaplaincy at Gatwick Airport in the misplaced belief, which I shared with him, that children at an airport would be not only birds of passage, but also under firm parental control. Not a bit of it. The priest had such determination to suborn and groom children for sex that even Gatwick failed to deter him.

"Treating such priests, I used to discuss with religious superiors how to retain their control outside parochial life in, for example, cathedral clerical posts. But there were not nearly enough of them, necessitating forced laicisation. For years – and particularly after the demise of the Paraclete resource for psychologically impaired Religious, Our Lady of Victory, Brownshill – I have advocated the need for a pan-diocesan establishment, where such priests, while retaining priestly status, could be cared for, indefinitely if necessary, and rehabilitated if possible, under psychiatric and clinical psychological supervision.

Unmitigated laicisation might clear the Church’s Augean stable, but at the cost of imposing the dross on secular society. A convicted paedophile priest emerging from prison on the sex register, discarded by the Church and laicised, workless, friendless and supportless is all too likely to use his pederastic skill to attract and groom for sex children in the neighbourhood, or, as the last resort, frequent public lavatories for cottaging.

Seymour Spencer

(For 20 years consultant psychiatrist to our Lady of Victory, Brownshill), Oxford

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