Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Church, The Shadow, Homosexuality

article by Rev. Anthony J. DeLuca, Ph.D.

This essay is written in response to statements of the Catholic League president specifically on the matter of homosexuality. I have the feeling that people may play the numbers game according to their own prior convictions. I think the problem here is not distinguishing within the wide range of homosexual behavior similar to the wide range of heterosexual behavior. In quoting the John Jay College of Criminal Justice report stating that 81% of the victims were male and accordingly perpetrated by homosexuals, there are no distinctions made within homosexuality. Thus it tars with the same brush all homosexuals.

Further, when the report says that the majority of the victims were post-pubescent, this can be misleading because of the particular authority being employed. The mental health community in the United States and agencies in many other parts of the world, use the standard manual of mental health diagnosis – namely the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV TR. In this manual’s criteria for pedophilia, the ages given to be so qualified are 13 and under. When we examine the John Jay Report in the breakdown sections of age (male and female), we find 6% age 7 or less; 16% age 8-10; and 38% age 11-13. Thus 60% according to the DSM IV TR meet the criteria for pedophilia, These perpetrators were both heterosexual and homosexual pedophiles with a majority of homosexual orientation. These figures address neither the entire heterosexual or homosexual population. The majority of the general population of heterosexuals and homosexuals chose an age appropriate sexual object.


Those heterosexuals and homosexuals who are pedophiles might be labeled “very immature” due to among many factors, psychological developmental arrests, physiology, genetics, birth order and environment. They would be interested in children in the pre-school, grammar or elementary school. The majority of the adult general population has no interest or revulsion at the prospect of sexually engaging these children of the same or different gender.

Gleaning from the John Jay Report, we see that victims at age of first incident were accordingly ages/ percentage: 14 (13%); 15 (12%); 16 (9%); 17 (7%). Approximately, 41% of the victims were ages 14-17 and the greater majority were male. These are over age 13 and do not meet the DSM IV TR criteria for pedophilia. These ages are the usual high school population.

From common observation of teenagers, their sexual behavior ranges from innocent / naïve to very provocative / sophisticated. However, most of the adult general population (both heterosexuals and homosexuals) find it inappropriate to engage these adolescents in sexual activity. There are many reasons, among which are integrated sexual maturity, good impulse control and fear of punishment. And so for the most part, the general adult population stays away sexually from high school children with the exception of those who make the headlines. These stories are a bit spicy and do not evoke as much distain and revulsion from the general adult population as pedophilia. Nevertheless, these victimizers are sexually immature and there is emotional damage to both female and male adolescents.

A good number of the Catholic clergy are homosexual. But they would be grouped with the general adult population and accordingly do not engage in pedophilia or sexual activity with adolescents. The reasons are that they are sexually mature. In summary, there are mature, immature and very immature men in the priesthood with both heterosexual and homosexual orientation. However, there are significantly more very immature and immature priests with homosexual orientation compared with heterosexual abusers. Why very immature and immature homosexuals chose a vocation to the priesthood would demand further empirical research.

In passing, it should be noted that there are more cases per year of Protestant clergy involved in sexual abuse than Catholic clergy (Insurance reports); also there are a goodly number of rabbis. Very immature (pedophiles, hetero and homo) should not be admitted to ministry. As for the sexually immature, there may be room for future growth in some of this population but ministry should not be an option until sexual maturity is achieved.

Based upon nearly fifty years in the priesthood (both Catholic and Orthodox) and almost the same number of years as a psychologist / psychoanalyst, I would like to offer some reflections.

Why do the very sexually immature and the sexually immature –both hetero- and homosexuals-select the Catholic priesthood. I offer the following possibilities. These applicants have a sensitive super-ego (conscience) and their pedophilic inclinations are ego-dysyntonic; this disharmony is further reinforced by society and the official doctrines of the church. Accordingly, these applicants make the unfortunate mistake of believing that celibacy is a viable option in solving the problem. If I am to engage in no sexual activity as demanded by celibacy, then the problem is solved. I will engage, through religion, in massive repression and denial and any number of other defense mechanism. But defense mechanisms do not last forever.

I believe that few pedophiles start out as priests consciously wishing to take advantage of an environment in which children will be available in abundance. We may speak of first fervor. From a psychological standpoint, this is a normal developmental stage of extreme idealization. The lamentable fact is that this is a stage in the whole of psychological development. (I extrapolate from the John Jay Report that sexual misadventures begin about age 30-35 or 4 or 5 years after ordination.) This idealization does not disappear but its intensity significantly dissipates with further realistic development. Would that a pill were already on the market that would keep us at the stage of heightened idealization or in other language, a sustained time filled or over-filled with the Holy Spirit and grace abounding. Certainly not a time of aridity or dark night. But we are not entitled to a life of continuous miracles.

An old maxim of Freud is that the mechanism used for repression will become the vehicle for the return of the repressed. Thus, over time, the church we selected as providing a matrix in assisting us in our repression becomes now the vehicle for the return of the repressed. The original idealization of the church diminishes and disillusionment with the institution sets in along with an environment providing overwhelming temptation (stimulating predominately male environment, children etc.). So the institution that was to assist in repression of the unacceptable impulse becomes a vehicle for the return of the impulse (pedophilia).

Another reason why all and sundry find refuge in Holy Mother Church (Refuge of Sinners) is that she is the Great Mother (Magna Mater). No mother rejects her child no matter how different and with whatever aberrations. (“To whom shall we go”). In earlier times, the church had good explanations for everything- just like your mother. I recall my grandmother often telling me in broken English “Church [under] stand every kin[d] story.” I am quite moved by Fellini films and especially enchanted by his “midget nuns” (Fellini’s term). What would become of a midget girl in a little Italian village. No problem. The local convent takes her and she proudly wears a small size habit, has her family near by and the company and care of the Sisters for the rest of her life. One “midget-nun,” with flying Daughter of Charity habit, ran a mental institution on weekends. So much for the kindly Madonna Church. The Church is big enough with a place for everyone.

I would like to conclude with some ideas from Carl Jung specifically on the Shadow. We all have a Shadow side which we do not like to look at. However, if we do not come to grips with the Shadow or make friends with it, the Shadow will undo us. And how many clergy have been undone. I think one of the Shadows of the church is homosexuality. I recall a priest who was “flamboyantly” heterosexual and simultaneously condemnatory of homosexuals. (“I fear the woman doth protest too much”). Over time, he eventually became “ the poor player who struts and frets upon the stage and then is heard no more.” This Shadow side is particularly threatening to men. With patients struggling with gender identity, I frequently tell them no one is 100% heterosexual. There is no triangle with exactly 180 degrees in the empirical universe. The only place there is a 180 degree triangle is in your mind. It is a mental construct. Yet, some men are not satisfied with 99.44% heterosexuality; and the problem is readily apparent. They have not come to grips with their Shadow. When the church comes to grip with her Shadow, she will be more tolerant of her different children and all her children will be benevolently received.

Rev. Anthony J. DeLuca, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist /Psychoanalyst;
Dean, International School for Mental Health Practitioners

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