Why Is the Catholic Church Hiring Psychologists? | NBC Left Field

By | September 4, 2019

We’re all broken, we’re all sinners, but for
folks who want to enter the priesthood, if you have some issues, maybe it’s not
the right ministry for you. Over the last 15 years, Catholic churches in America
have been calling in psychologists. Everyone’s afraid of the psych eval,
everyone thinks it’s gonna be horrible, and in the vast majority of cases, it’s
not, it goes very smoothly. But how much can a psychological evaluation help to
predict dangerous human behavior? In 2002, the news broke about an epidemic of
child sexual assault within the American Catholic Church. Soon, we learned that thousands of children had been hurt, but the church had systematically buried its
crimes. A few years later, the Vatican issued a new set of guidelines, calling
for potential priests to be given psychological assessments before
entering the priesthood. The experts were meant to look for a range of things:
psychological defects, psychic disturbances, balance, chastity, a positive
and stable sense of one’s masculine identity. And what exactly are you
looking for in these evaluations? Some obvious ones: if someone has an active
substance abuse issue, if there’s a serious mental illness, things like that.
We do ask the hard questions. We’re going to ask about pornography, we’re going to
ask about pedophilia, we’re gonna ask about sexual harassment charges, we’re
gonna ask about things like that, experiences they’ve had. The questions
get personal: when did you first feel aroused? When was the last time you
masturbated? What do you fantasize about? The psychologists watch for signs of
evasion and nervousness. As people know that anything they don’t want to answer,
they don’t have to. Now, in truth, if someone says that, that does go in the
report — and they know that, too, if the person preferred not to answer this question.
Are you a man of faith yourself? I am Roman Catholic, and I think it does help.
Is it necessary? I’m not sure. Some churches have been doing these tests
before the abuse crisis, but they’re more common now. The thing is, there’s no
universally accepted protocol on what tests to use. The psychologists will
probably use a range of standard personality tests. Rarely, he might use a
controversial exam, like the Rorschach, that famous test that asks
people to interpret abstracts ink blots. If someone gets too defensive, we’re
pretty good at recognizing that, and forgive me, I’m just not going to state
all the reasons how because then it would be less effective when we do it in
future. And then there’s this other huge and important point of contention with
this whole testing process. Are you trying to look for someone’s sexual
orientation, and is that something that you’re, you’re asked to do by communities?
We do ask about that. Some communities have specifically mentioned it, some some
do not. Whatever the community chooses to do with that. That would not be a rule-in
or rule-out for me. In a normal job interview, it would be very illegal to
ask someone whether he’s gay, or straight, or otherwise, but in 2012, the Supreme
Court ruled that some church employees are not protected by normal
discrimination laws. In 2016, the Vatican affirms that people with “deep-seated
homosexual tendencies” should not be priests, though different churches
interpret that differently. Critics say that bishops are scapegoating gay people,
incorrectly blaming the sexual abuse crisis on homosexual men. For the record,
there is no scientific evidence linking sexual orientation with pedophilia. You
know, psychological evaluations, at least in some orders, have taken place for
decades, and took place before the sex abuse scandals. And so, I suppose that, you
know, the conclusion of that is that they didn’t work, or they failed, or some of
them failed. There are some things that are just very hard to pick out. I feel
like we have a pretty good hit rate nowadays for picking out what might be
problematic, but are we perfect? No, we’re not. We’re looking for someone who
there’s a reasonable likelihood they have a true call from God, which is a
very interesting phrase because I’m, I can’t judge whether someone has a true
call from God — that’s, that’s outside of my expertise. We learned about this subject while
reporting another piece for Left Field about young men and women who are
entering religious life. You should watch it. And if you don’t already, subscribe to
NBC Left Field. And let us know what you think on Twitter at @katieengelhart and @carlospbeltran.

19 thoughts on “Why Is the Catholic Church Hiring Psychologists? | NBC Left Field

  1. Match Ashes Post author

    i'm not religious, but i can see why such a serious test would be in place. having a position of power over vulnerable people is easy to take advantage of. i'm surprised but not surprised that these haven't been in place sooner. Hopefully the more widespread these tests become, the safer those in these community's are. On the subject of homosexuality, i do find that rather concerning. Everyone knows people under this denomination have anti-homosexuality tenancies at times, (yes there are worse, i'm not ignorant) but sans the sexuality portion of the evaluation, (meaning purely LGBT sexuality evaluations) these seem like a great addition to the career process.

  2. Leah Selman Post author

    I just stop listening once they bring up sex abuse, the church doesnt promote sex abuse & psychology cant reverse hierloom scandals that start with Male Genital Mutilation & end with a Shed Baby born in an Animal Trough in the middle of Winter.

  3. Rockabilly Rambler Post author

    I cannot belive people still fall for this shit.
    The whole relegion is a scam, a big club for pedos to access children.
    Any evaluations are strictly for show. No member of any clergy at any level can be trusted.

  4. Changing Things Post author


  5. Artstrology Post author

    Larry Nassar was a Catechist and Cistone was just raided in Saginaw destroying documents, Church policy is to hide everything
    The Vatican is a Gay Paradise and the entire religion is gay by design and intention. The books are stolen and China just outlawed online sales of the Bible due to plagiarism,… there are ver batim correlations with the IChing

  6. richy bonoan Post author

    TOO LATE !!   there  are 1 billion recovering catholics !  2000 YRS. TOO LATE !

  7. Leonard Armstrong Post author

    Prediction is very difficult since abuse is seldom a sexual issue and more of a power issue. When you rise to a position of authority above and beyond critique or review of others it is then the monster erupts from the sub-conscience. The presence of peer review, victim abuse resources and external and internal controls inhibit abuse but as anywhere else, can not extinguish it.

  8. David Bowser Post author

    Why ?  They are trying to get their heads pulled out of their butts !

  9. Ron Haimowitz Post author

    Someone might want to apprise this "psychologist" that showing actual Rorschach cards is an ethical violation.

    Maintaining Test Security
    The term test materials refers to manuals, instruments, protocols, and test questions or stimuli and does not include test data as defined in Standard 9.04, Release of Test Data. Psychologists make reasonable efforts to maintain the integrity and security of test materials and other assessment techniques consistent with law and contractual obligations, and in a manner that permits adherence to this Ethics Code.

  10. Kevin Tobiason Post author

    The Catholic Church is still trying to tell people that LGBTQ folk are "Intrinsically Disordered." If the Church is going to listen to psychologists maybe they should listen to them explain why LGBTQ folk are NOT "Intrinsically Disordered" but that, obviously, many Catholic priests ARE. Or also listen to them explain why it is just not natural to forbid adults from having sex without resulting in heinous consciousnesses, personalities and consequences.

  11. NeoRipshaft Post author

    You guys completely miss the point when you bring up religious child physical abuse in the catholic church – it's that the church literally uses its power to shield the rapists from justice, and almost always relocates them and places them back into active service, without ever notifying the community of the risk. They also silence the victims to the greatest extent possible… I mean the mass child rape and protection of rapists is not even the worst thing the church does… why does this evil enterprise exist, it should be wiped clean off the face of the planet and its employees should be selling pencils from a cup.

  12. Poochie Collins Post author

    As an atheist, I'm okay with a Christian church being against homosexuality because it's consistent with what the Bible says. I'm not Christian b/c of the overwhelming scientific evidence suggesting it's bunk, but I have some respect for religious people / Christians who actually take it seriously. That said, the Bible barely talks about homosexuality, but has numerous scripture about love…… it'd be nice if Christians took that scripture more seriously.

  13. Kye Talks Post author

    Lots of the victims of the molestation are girls. How does your homophobic scapegoat work there, huh? 🙄

  14. courtneylove's MACcompact Post author

    I know exactly how to conduct these "interviews"/ evaluations. And they would be VERY effective.
    But just so you know, this is FAR from the church's priority.
    And did you see that clip? The one where he sat back in his chair very frustrated obviously and flipping his foot around before taking a huge breath and lunging at the questionnaire to answer her with an obviously poor answer?
    This just explains it all. You can see why these things are happening by his attitude.


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