Vincent Browne writes about Marie Keenan’s book: Child Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church: Gender, Power and Organisational Culture.

Theology of priesthood behind sex abuse crisis

VINCENT BROWNE – Irish Times 21st March 2012

CLERICAL SEXUAL abuse is inevitable given the meaning system that is taught by the Catholic Church and to which many priests adhere.

Contradictions in that system lead to failure, increase shame and a way of living that encourages deviant behaviour.

This is the thesis of a revealing book on sexual abuse within the church by an Irish academic and therapist who interviewed, at length, nine priests and brothers convicted of child abuse, who counselled several other clerical abusers and who undertook extensive research on the issue for her book Child Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church: Gender, Power and Organisational Culture. The author is Marie Keenan of the school of applied social science at UCD.

It is evident that the apostolic visitors – Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop Emeritus of Westminster, Cardinal Seán O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, Thomas Christopher Collins, Archbishop of Toronto and Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York – didn’t read the book or speak to Keenan while in Ireland.

Their report, published in summary form yesterday, might have been very different had they done so.

The culture inculcated in Catholic clergy is that they are separate from other human beings because of their special “calling” from God, because of their sole capacity to administer the sacraments, to turn bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, because of their power to forgive sin and administer the last rites.

From the moment of their ordination they are apart, apart in the minds of other convinced Catholics and apart in their own minds. And they are also celibate, because of that “calling”. Abjuring intimate sexual relations, sublimating their sexual urges and widely admired in the communities they inhabit on account of that sublimation.

Keenan says this theology of sacrifice eclipses all human considerations. She says her argument is not that clerical celibacy is the problem but a Catholic externally-imposed sexual ethic and a theology of priesthood that “problematises” the body and erotic sexual desire and emphasises chastity and purity, over a relational ethic (how as human beings we should treat each other).

She says this theology of sexuality contributes to self-hatred, shame and a sense of personal failure on the part of some priests.

This tension is often exacerbated by a sense of powerlessness on the part of many priests within a hierarchical, authoritarian church, subject to the authority of bishops or heads of religious orders, often allowing them with little sense of being in control of their own lives. And this is further added to by loneliness.

Some priests cope with this by easing off on the celibacy bit. Some ease off the celibacy bit with guilt, some with a sense of doing their best with their human frailties.

According to Keenan it is often the priests who aspire to priestly perfection and are hugely conflicted with the demands of such perfection that resort to child sexual abuse, usually, she says, not opportunistically, but consciously and deliberately over time. And this seems to be confirmed by other research.

Moreover, in many ways, the release of the confessional – the opportunity to dispel guilt in a secret ritual – compounds the problem. The “external” imposition (by the church) of the priestly ethic, rather than the cultivation of an internal ethic, also contributes to the propensity to abuse; for the construction of an internal ethic involves reflection on the impact of one’s conduct on the lives of others and that seems to have been missing in the make-up of many of the clerical abusers.

There is nothing at all of this in the report of the bachelor apostolic visitors, instead a recommendation that the culture of the seminary be intensified in the lives of aspirants for the priesthood. No acknowledgment is made of the tension inherent in the celibacy thing and the hypocrisies and traumas to which it gives rise.

In general there seems to be little interest in why this clerical abuse has occurred and what it is within the Catholic culture that has engendered it. The dismissive explanation that it is all due to the “flawed” personalities of the abusers ignores the cultural and formative factors that at least contributed to the phenomenon.

There is a further point which is also not addressed at all by the Catholic Church and it has to do with society’s treatment of the clerical perpetrators after they have served their sentences. They are rendered effectively homeless by a public rage directed at them, engendered largely by the media.

Our system of justice ordains that people who commit even the most heinous of crimes are brought before the courts, convicted, publicly shamed and then imprisoned, after which, that’s it. And yet, often in denial of their human rights, they remain hounded for the remainder of their days. Moreover, very often those who do the most vigorous hounding are those who speak most loudly that bit from what is known as “the Lord’s Prayer”: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

 

A Social Constructionist Approach to Research John Shotter

30th January 2012.  Institute of Family Therapy, London

There is a tendency to treat circumstances we find bewildering or disorienting, ones which are strange and new to us, as posing a problem for us. Thus we often respond to such events by seeking a solution to them, by trying to explain them. This classical problem-solving approach to research has its history in Descartes’ Discourse on Method of 1637.

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Systemic Cafe – Monday, 26th September

Welcome to a new season of Systemic Cafe. Following on the success of last year where FTAI members, colleagues & friends met to socialise, share ideas, observe, or participate in a short discussion, have a drink & relax we are ready to roll again. It is free. It was our desire to come together in a more casual atmosphere of friendship and therapeutic curiosity that made the Systemic Cafe so enjoyable. This time we have a great new venue with a cosy fire, comfortable seats and warm ambiance (a fine, private section of the original Bar at the Berkley Court).

Venue:         THE D-4 BERKLEY HOTEL

Lansdowne Road,  Ballsbridge,  Dublin 4.

(3 mins.from Lansdowne Rd. DART,   15 mins walk from Grafton St.)

Date:           Monday 26th September 2011

Time:                    7.00 – 9.00pm

Topic: Separating Couples, their children & a “Collaborative Practice” approach

Our three starting speakers are pioneers in the field of integrating a ‘Collaborative Practice’ approach with the therapeutic needs of children when couples are separating/divorcing. This evening’s gathering offers

systemic/family therapists an opportunity to be more informed & possibly play a greater part of this growing movement towards facilitating a non-adversarial, mutually respectful process while prioritising co-operative and positive parenting, during & after a break-up. They have vast experience between them in the actual workings of the legal & mediation process. All three are committed to the ‘collaborative’ approach, and to its development in both in Ireland and internationally.

Dr. Jim Sheehan is Director of Family Therapy Training at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Dublin. and part-time Professor of Family Therapy & Systemic Practice at the Diakonhjemmet University College, Oslo, Norway.

Caoimhe Nic Dhomhnaill is a clinical psychologist who has specialised in child and adolescent psychotherapy. She is a consultant to the family law courts and endeavours to integrate an understanding of psychodynamic & unconscious processes for the child and the family as they interface with the legal system.

Brian Smith is a psychologist, family therapist, children’s advocate & mediator. He co-authored “Giving Children a Voice”. He has developed an all-issues, Integrative & Collaborative Model of Family Mediation. Brian has extensive experience as an advocate for children & families in the process of separation.

A  FREE  GLASS  OF  WINE,  BEER  OR  BALLYGOWAN  AWAITS YOU!

For those coming directly from work, The D4 BERKLEY has a ‘Bar Food’ menu (at your own expense!). The discussion starts at 7pm.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) = 2 hours. CPD certificates will be issued by the Family Therapy Assoc. of Ireland (FTAI).

Scott Wooley Two Day Workshop

Scott Wooley will present this two day Workshop entitled  ‘Using Emotionally Focused Therapy when working with couples’ on  7th/8th October 2011 at the Westin Hotel in Dublin city centre.

Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is a leading, revolutionary, empirically supported approach for treating couples.

Day 1 of this workshop lays out the theory and techniques of EFT and helps participants learn to de-escalate difficult couples and engage withdrawn partners.

Day 2 builds on the first day and focuses on softening pursuers, creating lasting secure bonds between partners, using 7 empirically derived steps to heal the devastating impact attachment injuries, and treating trauma in the context of couples therapy.

Video of therapy and supportive research is used throughout the two days to illustrate how EFT is used to help couples heal and develop long-term healthy bonds.

This two day Workshop will be held on Friday 7th & Saturday 8th October 2011 at the Westin Hotel (at College Green), Westmoreland Street, Dublin 2.

Workshops are from 10am – 4pm, with registration from 9.30am.

Download Registration Form

Why we all need a little Family Therapy

The Family Therapy Association of Ireland (FTAI), which is the professional body of systemic therapy, has just launched a new website so anyone who needs a therapist can find one in their local area.

Therapists are listed in various specialities and can be found on the website by looking in the pull-down menu on the home page. The launch of the website last Saturday was timely because family therapy was never needed as much as it is today.

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Report on Workshop by Dr Karl Tomm

On May 13th last, some 60 family therapists from all over Ireland gathered at the Davenport Hotel in Dublin to engage in a two-day workshop lead by Dr Karl Tomm.

Mara de Lacy welcoming Dr Karl Tomm

Familiar to all of us for his seminal work in developing particular styles of therapeutic engagement, for example, interventive interviewing and the use of the’ internalised other,’ Karl presented an enthralling, challenging and, as many of those present will attest, a very moving learning experience.

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