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Ask the Expert

By Diogenes (bio - articles ) | Jun 12, 2003

The National Catholic Reporter's John Allen reports on a seminar on the sex abuse crisis held at Santa Clara University:

Some psychotherapists have been accused of naïve assessments of abusive priests, recommending men for return to ministry who later committed further acts of abuse. In some cases those accusations are correct, and no one is more aware of that than the clinicians, who were openly self-critical during our two days together. At the same time, they have a rich vein of experience about treatment and rehabilitation that sometimes is drowned out by the clamor for get-tough approaches. One point that came through loud and clear was that we don't have the scientific data to draw conclusions about causes and solutions to the crisis, so that much public commentary today, from left and right in the Catholic Church, amounts to guesswork. Perhaps the most pressing version of this point was made in the chapter contributed by Loftus. "The paucity of actual research into the sexual landscape of celibate clergy," he wrote, "is staggering."

Let's see if I have this right. It's unenlightened to believe that priests guilty of sexual misconduct should be treated as if their failing were primarily a moral failing; it's enlightened to send them to therapy. The lay clamor for get-tough approaches is based on anecdotal information; the professionals' approach to rehabilitation is guided by "a rich vein of experience." We totally lack the scientific data necessary to understand the causes and solutions of the crisis; it's important that we not over-react to the diagnostic and therapeutic failures of the experts.

And there's positively no connection between homosexuality and the sexual abuse of boys.

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