If the institutional Church really wants to prevent child sex abuse, it can’t continue to rely on therapists whose theories and practices may fall outside the guidelines of the American Psychological and Psychiatric Associations. Advice that had proven convenient in cover ups does little for real healing.
Let’s look at the case of Father Edward DePaoli who was arrested in 1985 for the child pornography he’d stashed at Holy Martyrs Church in Oreland, PA. I’ve abbreviated a more detailed account reported by Ralph Cipriano in his Philadelphia Priest Abuse Trial Blog post. Even after his arrest, Father DePaoli continued his porn habit. After being sentenced to a year’s probation, the diocese sent him to a treatment facility for sex offenders. Free to come and go, he was caught leaving an adult book store. A subsequent search of his room turned up more child porn.
Despite all this, Cardinal Bevilacqua didn’t want to end the pervert’s priestly ministry. He was sent to NJ where he got into more of the same trouble and worse. Memos reveal that Msgr. Lynn worried that denying Father DePaoli a place back in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia might have “a severe negative effect” on the priest’s chances of recovery. Never mind, the severe negative effect he might have on children.
So what did a Archdiocesan therapist make of all this? Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, who served on the Counseling Committee of Psychiatrists and Psychologists for Religious of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia,” said the priest had suffered “what I would view as a minor relapse.” He didn’t think Father DePaoli needed to be hospitalized again and that he “could function well in ministry.” Two years earlier, Dr. Fitzgibbons had pronounced, “I believe that Father DePaoli has made a complete recovery.”
Interestingly, Kansas City’s Bishop Robert Finn chose Fitzgibbons to evaluate Father Shawn Ratigan, another priest with porn issues. The choice has been criticized due to possible bias. Fitzgibbons is also an adviser to Opus Bono Sacerdotii, a controversial group that gives support to clerics who are accused or convicted of child molestation.
“What kind of therapist diagnoses an adult as “lonely” because he takes pictures of little girls’ underwear and private parts for years?” asked Mike Hunter, SNAP’s (Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests) Kansas City director. “….And what kind of bishop seeks out this therapist?”
“It’s what bishops have done for years – pay unqualified or unethical therapists who will call child predators anything except child predators so bishops can put them back in parishes,” said Hunter. “Then, in yet another cynical betrayal, bishops end up blaming those therapists for giving them ‘bad advice.’ And when the dust settles, and another allegation surfaces later against another cleric, bishops hired the same therapists again.”
Fitzgibbons’ bio lists him as a consultant to the Congregation for Clergy at the Vatican. It also states he has given conferences to dioceses and religious communities and to seminary spiritual formation teams. It goes on to say he’s lectured on identifying and resolving emotional conflicts in children. I would guess sexual abuse by clergy plays into childhood emotional conflict.
More recently, Fitzgibbons has shifted his focus to running a suburban Philadelphia Marital Institute and healing same-sex attraction. An article in last year’s Philadelphia Inquirer on a sports camp held at St. Charles Seminary for those avoiding gay sex, outlined his professional view-point. “He has written extensively about what he calls healing homosexual attraction.” It reports that in an Catholic Education Resource Center article he wrote that boys who are rejected because they can’t play sports “begin to identify with the female instead of the male.” So a lack of athleticism causes homosexuality? “Fortunately, Catholic spirituality, combined with good psychotherapy, can result in a complete healing of those with this disorder,” he wrote in a paper presented at the Conference on Family and Education in Toronto in 1996. This play the gay away camp was held again this past weekend. I don’t think NBA star Jason Collins knew about it.
I only took a few psychology and human sexuality courses in college, but I did learn these three things.
1. There is no cure for pedophilia.
2. The cause of homosexuality is scientifically unknown but professionals recognize there is little to no sense of choice.
3. There is no connection between homosexuality and pedophilia.
For more information, please visit the American Psychological Association. A Christ-like approach can work hand-in-hand with modern knowledge and common sense. Let’s insist our Church uses the proper resources going forward. Let’s insist that medical governing boards do not shy away from reviewing therapists who work in conjunction with spirituality and religious organizations.