Combating the Culture of Pedophilia

Giovanni Cucci, SJ

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In a previous article,[1] we attempted to outline the characteristics and personality of those who commit acts of pedophilia, both in general and specifically within the Catholic clergy. We noted the complexity of this situation and the difficulty of reaching firm conclusions, particularly regarding prognosis and therapy. This difficulty, in turn, sheds new light on the manner in which this topic is often examined, and the ambiguity which is involved.

A strange silence

In a climate marked by cases of abuse and a never-ending series of scandals, we notice a strange silence from the very people who are best qualified to speak on these matters: those working in the field of education who are more experienced than most at interacting with children (parents, teachers, coaches, community leaders and priests), and the experts who should be able to offer an appropriate comment on the problem of pedophilia, including psychologists, psychiatrists and psychotherapists. To this issue, we notice an almost complete absence of contributions, not only in terms of opinions, statements or interviews, but also in terms of materials published. In this chapter, we shall limit our considerations to the area of psychological research.

Several psychologists and psychiatrists have questioned the diagnostic reliability of DSM-IV (and IV-TR),[2] and particularly its criteria for pedophilia: Why, for example, must sexual fantasies last for a period of six months? What research supports this? Similar questions could be asked regarding age, frequency and the time frame of diagnosis. The earlier DSM-III was no better. Its data was omitted from subsequent editions, which, however, reduced the publication to a list of terms so vague and generic that any claim to scientific value was completely undermined. Unsupported by adequate research, the DSM is of no use to psychologists or therapists.[3]

The proposal to focus solely on behavioral criteria does not seem to provide much help either. “Focusing strictly on behavior, so that a single sexual act with a child would constitute sufficient evidence for the diagnosis of ‘pedophilic response disorder,’ is problematic since it removes the important distinction between individuals who sexually prefer children, but have never molested a child, and those who have abused a child, but sexually prefer adults.”[4]

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