Predatory Priests, Silenced Victims: The Sexual Abuse Crisis and the Catholic Church

By Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea; Virginia Goldner | Go to book overview

4
A Love Addiction: Psychoanalytic
Psychotherapy with an Offending Priest

Andrea Celenza

The helping professions do not lack for wounded healers. This may be especially so for clergy, whose spiritual calling is based on the search for a mysterious, unseen, intangible reality. Such a calling requires a perseverance that is, for some, only sustainable when derived from profound, unmet need.

The following is a composite case constructed from several psychoanalytically-oriented psychotherapies that I have conducted with Christian or Catholic priests. None are pedophile predators. I present this composite to illustrate a more common type of exploitation (see Celenza, 2004), that being sexual misconduct in the context of an intense “love” affair with a parishioner. The essence of the misconduct derives from the asymmetric power distribution in the relationship and the priest’s opportunity to exploit that imbalance.

Fr. J, a priest in his 60s, came to his first session stating that he is a sex addict. I noted the obvious irony of his self-description com-

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