Monday, May 25, 2009

More on BPD And The Institutional Church

In my last post I discussed aspects of Borderline Personality Disorder and how often the same kinds of defensive strategies used by adult borderlines are used by members of the Institutional Church. God is good, because today on clerical whispers I found another perfect example of denial, inventifacting, and bullying by an institutional figure.

0Tuesday, May 26, 2009

There was fresh controversy today over child sex abuse and the Catholic church when an archbishop's aide claimed the majority of paedophilia was being perpetrated by gay men.
Father John Owen, the communications officer for the archdiocese of Cardiff and a Catholic chaplain at Cardiff University, was a guest on BBC1's The Big Questions.

His remarks concerned last Wednesday's publication of the Ryan Inquiry, a 2,565-page report detailing the abuse and rape of children in Ireland's Catholic institutions, and came days after the newly-appointed archbishop of Westminster, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, angered charities by saying it took courage for religious orders and clergy to confront the past.

Asked by the show's presenter, Nicky Campbell, whether the church cared more about its own reputation than the welfare of children, Owen replied: "These matters are so ghastly that people don't want to look at them, they can't believe these things are taking place within the orbit of a Christian church, perversion of Christianity. (Notice the triggering question-)

"Let me tell you of course before you go too far, most of the offences are being committed by homosexuals." (Then the answer, which comes after he makes an attempt to control the questioner, places the blame squarely on gay men, and ignores any institutional responsibility.)

Despite condemnation from the other panellists, two of whom were sexually abused, the churchman insisted he was stating the facts and told them to "be silent". (No one elses view of reality ever computes, the final strategy is always to silence the disputing voice.)

He said the "vast majority" of abuse cases in the UK affected teenage boys. "Now what does that tell you? Now that is a fact," he added. (It tells us the Church has problems with an all male clerical structure (kind of like prisons) and that most abusers found themselves frequently in the company of altar boys. Pedophiles in mixed school settings were equal opportunity predators. Oh well, what are facts, we're already supposed to know what this tells us. Fr. says so.)
A statement from the archdiocese distanced itself from Owen, saying "his comments seeming to link abuse and homosexuality" did not reflect the "consistent views" of the archdiocese of Cardiff. (Fr Owens comments seem to reflect Pope Benedict's views and the official church attitude. Why else the new seminary policy banning gays?)

Colm O'Gorman, author of Beyond Belief, a book about his own experience of clerical sexual abuse, and who was on the programme, described Owen's comments as "ill-informed, ignorant, corrupt and dishonest". (I'd say they were typically borderline.)

He said: "The church has created a link between homosexual sex and priests who rape and sodomise children. It scapegoats someone else and creates a side issue. It removes the criminal aspect and the rape becomes some sort of consensual adult behaviour." (It also attempts to leave the institution completely blameless and guilt free, the object of almost all borderline behavior.)

O'Gorman also expressed concern about the church's understanding of the significance of the issue, saying: "A child protection policy is only as good as the people implementing it." (Great point here, this is sort of expecting the Church to police itself, which is not likely to happen given the response of Fr. Owen.)


I hope everyone is having a great Memorial day weekend, and takes the time to remember those who gave their lives so that our freedoms can flourish. I especially want to remember those now serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and sincerely pray they all make it back home safely.

Back to borderline stuff. I once attended a lecture given by a pharmaceutical rep who gave an intriguing metaphor for BPD. He was asked if there was anything in the pipeline to specifically deal with BPD. He said it was sort of an impossible task. They were able to target a medication for schizophrenia because they could target a specific chemical structure which effected a specific part of the brain. BPD wasn't specific. It was more like marbling in a piece of meat. The brain centers effected were everywhere and no where specific.

This same kind of energy signal is in the Institutional church as well. It's everywhere and no where specific, which means there is no 'magic bullet' that will fix this system. It needs to be reprogrammed, not rebooted. Or maybe, the Church needs to be re rooted. It needs to go back to what Jesus actually taught about love and service to the servants.

There are plenty of good seeds from which to start over and plenty of good men and women who have left us great insight into what this Jesus path is all about. It's time we planted and nurtured those seeds in new ground-- minus all the weeds which have choked off the basic message of Jesus. We could start by removing the weed known as 'creeping infallibility' and the one known as 'Jansenist's physicality'. Just those two alone would go along ways to removing a lot of the BPD marbling. The Church would then be leaner, at least in a marbling sense, and far less meaner. It's the healthy thing to do.


  1. God Bless all who serve our country. Butterfly/Fran's father served in the Navy and was the lead airplane mechanic on the USS Intrepid in the Pacific fleet during WWII. Her grandfather served in the Navy in WWI. Her grandmother was a daughter of the American Revolution and also served in WWI. Her mother served as a secretary to someone high up in the US Navy during WWII. Her aunt worked at the Naval Shipyard in Philadelphia for 35 years as a supervisor. Her cousin Eddie served during the Vietnam War in the Marines. Her sister served in the Air Force.

    May all those serving our country come home safely and soon!

    Have a wonderful and peaceful Memorial Day!!

  2. Another great post on a really important topic, Colleen.

    I like especially the idea of re-booting, because the problem is everywhere and nowhere simultaneously--in the sense that it's so pervasive and the behavior is so taken for granted, that it's almost impossible to address it directly.

    Also interesting, the connection between Owens's attempt to blame gays for the sexual abuse scandal, and the way he tried to silence the interviewer. I didn't catch that connection in my first reading of the story, and am glad you pointed it out.

  3. Another way to recognize a borderline, "they sound good but you feel crazy"! Whoever thought feeling crazy would be a mark of sanity!
    And we had a sermon this weekend on "Humanae Vitae" about the lack of self discipline, the self centeredness and selfishness of those who do not practice abstinence and chastity, in addition to the fact that such people spread disease and cause unwanted pregnancies. And amazingly, he was talking about laity, not clergy!

  4. Colleen, it is sooooo true that BPD persons will tell you to just shut up. The truth is they are AFRAID of hearing the TRUTH. It is tooooo much for their child psyche to LISTEN. They will explode into a temper tantrum if you try to interject sanity.

  5. Dear Colleen,
    Thank you for your comments!
    Two things surprise me in the fallout of the Irish abuses.
    First, the silence of many catholic blogs on the subject.
    Second, the efforts to extol all the good thigs done by the Christian Brothers. It seems that some received a very good and even sophisticated education at their schools. Good for them! It seems that there were the smart Brothers and then the bullies who were sent to reformatory schools. And those who received a good education are at a loss to redress things.
    They certainly are grieving, as we all are.
    And we are all in the same boat: Canada, Australia, America, Ireland, etc...
    I find the BPD explanations very useful.

  6. Coolmom, that's a great definition of the BP: they sound good but make you feel crazy.

    When I think about my experiences with a BP as boss, that's exactly what made it so bizarre. She sounded great, and my mind worked hard to explain away and justify the behavior that perplexed me. Which resulted in my feeling really crazy inside anytime I had to be in her presence--I felt repulsion at the same time my adult mind struggled to admire her!

    And I suspect many leaders in the church produce precisely that same set of reactions among layfolks who encounter them.

  7. What drives me crazy is they will have absolutely different memories of their own behavior in any stressful situation--and they will insist your memories are flawed even when your memories are validated by a third party. I leaves the normal person with no where to go and effectively shuts down the conversation. You can't have a dialogue when two people are coming from two totally different understandings of reality.

    It's very much like Fr. Owens telling us the facts speak for themselves. Doesn't matter that they don't support his understanding, he can't hear that so he just shuts down the conversation.

  8. The silence on the various Catholic blogs on this is deafening.....

    As is any reaction to the following related issue:

    Many US Catholic elementary & boys high schools were conducted by faculty comprised of either Irish Christian Brothers or the Irish Marist Brothers (and Jesuits). When I say "Irish" I am not merely identifying the orders; I mean that the brothers were imported from 'across the pond' to America. With this fact comes:

    1. the all too well known classroom brutality meted out on helpless boys in the US schools by said brothers (and some priests too...)
    2. in the Ryan report there is the subtly overlooked fact that those religious (and priests) who were 'caught' for abuse in Ireland, were then hastily sent to the US & continued to abuse here.

    None of this is a secret; it has long been the subject of books, plays & movies. It is deeply engrained in the memories of generations of US Catholic school kids. Yet it is as if our collective consciousness of these horrors are both forgotten (buried & repressed) & at the same time something of which "is best kept quiet".

  9. My mother finally yanked me out of the Parochial school I attended because I used to get in more than my share of trouble because I was so freaking bored. I spent many an hour staring at walls, my nose the appropriate two inches away. I did however, learn to disassociate which has had beneficial results later in life. Meditation comes easy.

    My mother told me not to hold a grudge about all of it because those nuns were 'Irish Catholic' and that wasn't real Catholicism. Real Catholicism was any other Catholicism but Irish. My Polish mother was ecstatic when JPII was elected and we got REAL CATHOLICISM.

    Oh well, reality is a personal kind of thing. I failed to see much difference between the two views of Catholicism, but I never told her that.

    I think one other point you brought up that needs to be made, is that the Christian Brothers are a classic example of way too much autonomy and too little accountability with in the Church.

    It will be interesting to see what Benedict has to say about Irish Bishops calling for religious orders to pony up more money. This could be a big turf war.