Monday, May 31, 2010

A Bad Joke...

Even when they're trying to get "healthy"...this institution once again shows itself to be sex obsessed. This article describes the psychological screening process for seminarians, and it's really got to make you wonder where their heads are. Certainly, it is intended to deal with the abuse, which is good; if there's one thing I'm all for, it's psychosexually integrated priests (and people in general).

Yet it raises the question about what structural features of the contemporary priesthood make this even necessary in the first place. I doubt people working in any other job (except perhaps, like, CIA agents) have their employers prying into their lives this much, not even grade-school teachers who work with children full-time. What a zoo!

They should parody this on SNL or something. It would make a hilarious sketch, really, it's just so delightfully naive and perverse (though then Bill Donahue and his ilk would scream "anti-Catholicism!!"):

Every job interview has its awkward moments, but in recent years, the standard interview for men seeking a life in the Roman Catholic priesthood has made the awkward moment a requirement.

“When was the last time you had sex?” all candidates for the seminary are asked. (The preferred answer: not for three years or more.)

“What kind of sexual experiences have you had?” is another common question. “Do you like pornography?”

Depending on the replies and the results of a battery of standardized psychological tests — including sketches of anatomically correct human figures the candidate is asked to draw — the interview may proceed into deeper waters: “Do you like children?” and “Do you like children more than you like people your own age?”

It is part of a soul-baring obstacle course that prospective seminarians are forced to run in the aftermath of a sexual abuse crisis that church leaders have decided to confront, in part, by scrubbing their academies of potential molesters, according to church officials and psychologists who screen candidates.

But many of the questions are also aimed at another, equally sensitive mission: deciding whether gay applicants should be denied admission under recent Vatican guidelines that do not explicitly bar all gay candidates but would exclude most of them, even some who are celibate.

Scientific studies have found no link between sexual orientation and abuse, and the church is careful to describe its two initiatives as more or less separate. One top adviser to American seminaries characterized them as “two circles that might overlap here and there.”

Still, in the aftermath of the abuse crisis that erupted in 2002, reducing the number of homosexual men who enter the priesthood has become one the church’s highest priorities.

That task has fallen to seminary directors and a cadre of psychologists who say that culling candidates has become an arduous process of testing, interviewing and making decisions — based on social science, church dogma and gut instinct.

“The best way I can put it, it’s not black and white,” said the adviser, the Rev. David Toups, director of the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “It’s more like one of those things where it’s hard to define, but ‘I know it when I see it.’ ”

Could a psychologically mature gay person, committed to celibacy, never become a priest? Could the church afford to turn away good candidates in the midst of a critical priest shortage?

The Vatican permits every bishop and leader of a religious order to make those decisions, which vary from stricter to more liberal interpretations of the rules. But the methods of reaching them have become increasingly standard, experts say.

Msgr. Stephen Rossetti, a psychologist at Catholic University who has screened seminarians and once headed a treatment center for abusive priests, said the screening could be “very intrusive.” But, he added: “We are looking for two basic qualities: the absence of pathology and the presence of health.”

To that end, most candidates are likely to be asked not only about past sexual activities but also about masturbation fantasies, consumption of alcohol, relationships with parents and the causes of romantic breakups. All must take HIV tests and complete written exams such as the 567-question Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, which screens for, among other things, depression, paranoia and gender confusion.

In interviews by psychologists — who usually are selected because they are Catholic therapists with religious views matching those of the local church leadership — candidates are also likely to be asked about their strategies for managing sexual desire.

“Do you take cold showers? Do you take long runs?” [ROFLMAO!!!] said Dr. Thomas G. Plante, a psychologist and the director of the Spirituality and Health Institute at Santa Clara University in California, describing some typical questions.

The questions are intended both to gather information and to let screeners assess the candidate’s poise and self-awareness — or to observe the tics and eye-avoidance that may signal something else.


Tony said...

Now I ask myself: What. The fuck?

A Sinner said...

lol. Care to elaborate, Tony?

Tony said...

“Do you take cold showers? Do you take long runs?” [ROFLMAO!!!]

Do you eat pop-tarts? Do you think Hilary Swank is hot? Are you a cat person? What is your favorite snow cone flavor? Would you describe yourself as more of an ass-man? How about male ass?

What the hell is wrong with people. This isn't how you screen people.

A Sinner said...

LOL! See, this would make a great sketch on SNL or something! That's hilarious.

And yes, even in trying to show that they "get it"...they just keep showing how much they don't.

Agostino Taumaturgo said...

This was a painful read. I mean really, really painful.

While I have no problem with an all-encompassing psychological examination in principle, and think it a good thing for screening candidates, I think the way this has been applied is a case of going too far.

For example, expecting the average man not to have had sex for over three years. In our society, men who haven't had sex in over three years can be fitted into three categories: a) they're just not attractive/charismatic enough to "get some," or b) they're asexual, or c) they're seriously repressed.

Now I can say with certainly that none of these will make for a good candidate for the priesthood. The unattracive and the repressed, because eventually that urge will pop out and can be very ugly. The asexual, because he won't be able to deal with questions in the area of human sexuality, and he will get them; if his experience is like mine (every parish is different, but humanity is still the same), they'll come from the under-25 crowd, those of them who are more than a little devout, and are trying to reconcile the Church's moral teaching with their own sexualities, which they are in the process of discovering. This can often turn into a litteral mine-field and requires a very deft pastoral touch, especially if the young person discovers he/she is anything other than "plain vanilla," and I just don't see how a man with no sexual urges will be capable of handling that.

No, what I think is that even though the screening should mention sexuality, it should only be there as a component along with the other components, not blown out of proportion. For example, I'm generally competent, but the one area where I tend to be inept is grief counseling, because I'm simply incapable of experiencing grief myself; no amount of education can make up for that, but that's something very important that I wasn't screened for. I think the screening should take into account the candidates ability to understand and empathize with the whole spectrum of the human conditionl, of which sexuality is rightfully a part. But only a part, and not the obssessive be-all and end-all.