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Priest tests to weed out pedophiles

All candidates for the Catholic priesthood in Brisbane are to be subjected to full psychological and psycho-sexual screening to weed out those students predisposed to pedophilia.

Archbishop John Bathersby said that although the church had ``for years'' screened applicants for the priesthood, he wanted seminarians to be tested by the Sydney-based Encompass Program.

``Quite obviously any sort of leaning towards incorrect, out-of-control sexuality, we'd be seeking to discover that if we possibly could,'' Archbishop Bathersby said.

Asked if tendencies to pedophilia, even ones that had not been acted out, would be sufficient to bar a candidate from studying for the priesthood, he replied: ``I think it would very seriously call into question the vocation of the person towards the priesthood. I think in this day and age, you'd want to be sure.''

Archbishop Bathersby said he was uncertain whether he had the power to compel all ordained priests in the archdiocese to submit themselves to the testing program.

``I think it would speed the process of restoring confidence in the church but it is very comprehensive testing and somewhat intrusive and I feel it would be a little heavy-handed of me to force the issue,'' he said. ``Priests have canonical rights. I'd certainly give them encouragement to do that screening if they were happy to do it.''

He said seminarians and priests working with children were already required to obtain State Government suitability cards, providing some reassurance that minors would be safe from sexual predators.

Dr Geraldine Taylor, clinical director of the Encompass Program, said the screening process involved a medical check-up plus neuropsychological, psychosocial, psycho-sexual, psychiatric, psychological and spiritual assessments.

"We can ascertain the level of risk that a person would pose to children," Dr Taylor said.

Full text of Archbishop John Bathersby's article in The Courier-Mail on April 22


28 Apr 2002