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Published: 14 February 2017
Author: Marina Leikina
What is an appropriate screening process for lay persons wishing to enter a Catholic religious order, especially one that is exposed to working with children?
This was the topic of the day as the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse continued its investigation into the training of priests and nuns within the Church.
Psychologist Dr Gerardine Robinson yesterday told the Commission that in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s offending priests believed they had not breached their vows of celibacy by abusing children because this did not involve relations with a woman. Dr Robinson said this ‘cognitive distortion’ was caused by offending priests seeing children as objects over which they had ownership.
Today the Commission is hearing evidence from Catholic Church witnesses who oversee the formation and training of priests, and who conduct their screening and psychological assessments.
The Commission has heard that a person’s sexual orientation forms part of psychological assessment undertaken by candidates for priesthood and that “deep seated homosexual attraction” disqualifies a candidate from entry. This is mandated by the Vatican.
The Commission observed that there was no such clear direction from the Vatican about attraction to children disqualifying a candidate from priesthood.
While there was a general consensus among the witnesses that psychological testing of candidates for priesthood was important, there was no clear, shared understanding of inappropriate characteristics.
A suggestion from seminary rector Father Peter Thompson, that a lack of religious devotion made offending conduct by priests possible, was met with criticism from the Commissioners. The Commissioners observed that the evidence showed that some offending priests were extraordinary devout.
For those who did not catch the opening address of this hearing, a full transcript is available here: http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/case-study/261be84b-bec0-4440-b294-57d3e7de1234/case-study-50,-february-2017,-sydney
In summary, the information gathered by the Commission revealed that:
The public hearing continues.
You can follow our commentary on proceedings here throughout the hearing.
Categories: Royal Commission
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