Bless Me Father for I Have Sinned: Perspectives on Sexual Abuse Committed by Roman Catholic Priests

By Thomas G. Plante | Go to book overview

Chapter 5 Neuropsychological Findings in Clergy Who Sexually Abuse

Leslie Lothstein

In the last two decades, a potential relationship between sexually deviant behavior and focal brain dysfunction has been hypothesized ( Graber, Hartmann, Coffman, Huey, & Golden, 1982; Flor-Henry, 1987; Langevin, Lang, Wortzman, Frenzel, & Wright, 1989; Malloy & Duffy, 1994). The relationship is not necessarily a causal one. Focal brain dysfunction may organize sexually deviant behavior or activate a previously existing, but contained, pattern of sexually deviant behavior.

A diagnosis of brain abnormality does not predict what type of sexually deviant behavior is likely to be expressed. The content of perverse behavior is based on family dynamics and intrapsychic, psychodynamic forces in the individual ( Goldberg, 1995). Because of individual psychosexual-dynamics, there is as much heterogeneity among a single class of sexually deviants (e.g., child molesters) as between all the various DSM-IV paraphilias, ( APA, 1994) or among the various nonparaphilic compulsive and addictive sexual disorders ( Lasser, 1991).

Once activated, sexually deviant behavior may be potentiated by many factors, including, but not limited to the following: alcohol and drug usage, mental illness, type of personality, level of ego functioning, gender, early childhood trauma, and family patterns of sexuality ( Lothstein, 1983; Coleman, 1988). The fact that even high-functioning, morally sound, ethically impeccable spiritual leaders have been identified as sexually deviant raises the question of whether their sexual pathology may be wholly or partially related to a brain abnormality. While the majority of studies on sexual deviance focus on low functioning or severely impaired individuals, this chapter will focus on a target population that is high functioning personally and professionally. Conclusions drawn from studies on low-functioning individuals rarely have application to higher-functioning individuals. Moreover, most studies on sexually deviant populations use incarcerated individuals as subjects and their conclusions may not apply to an outpatient nonincarcerated

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