Remaining Adolescent


Jim Gill         Since there is nothing in human nature that drives you out of adolescence necessarily, you can stay adolescent in your psychosexual development so that you do not deal maturely with authority figures, you do not deal maturely with people of the opposite sex or even necessarily the same sex. If you do not deal maturely, it is regrettable because it is hard to be a very effective priest with a lot of people if you are not. But you can still live a busy, active life.

The pathology comes where it becomes perverse. That is, for example, when you live in fantasy rather than live in reality. That would mean that a person who spends hours and hours and hours at the Internet looking at pornographic pictures and is fantasising what it would be like to have sex with a five-year-old girl or a 12-year-old girl and gets sexually charged up and masturbates and acts in an unhealthy way in so far as he is using his imagination to abuse in his fantasy children may go on to actualise it and go out beyond fantasising and abuse. That is where you go from immaturity to real destructive, as you say, pathology, and he is destroying himself, his humanity, as well then as being destructive in dealing with the children he abuses. So you go from fantasy acting out to real acting out.

That is why the law is so tough on people who abuse - they want to stop it; they want to keep it in the realm of fantasy, if they can. But they do not even want them to be looking at these pictures if it is going to be something that is possibly going to threaten the lives and the wellbeing of other people. So it becomes a criminal act in many countries - not all. In a lot of countries it is not. You can look at all the pornographic stuff with children that you want, and there is no crime.


John Ryan         Are you saying, Jim, that some of this behaviour that these guys are engaged in would be normal or acceptable developmental behaviour at certain stages along the road?


Jim Gill         Sure. High school kids get into a computer and find a web site where there are pornographic pictures, and there may be 12 pictures there or 12 in a row. They look at those pictures and they think, 'Isn't this great,' and then they find themselves becoming sexually aroused and then that is a big deal. They tell other people about this and show them the pictures - 'Look at what I've seen. You think you've got a good one there.' That is adolescence. That is the kind of thing that parents have to keep cool about. These kids are not burning down the cathedral; they are reacting in an adolescent way.

So you do not go to war with kids over a little of this. But if you find out that they are spending hours every day and you find out that they are not interested in doing their homework or they are not interested in going out with friends, they are hanging around some place where they have a computer and that becomes a central focus, you have a problem.


- Excerpted from To Educate and to Form: Assisting Personal Growth and Development - an interview with James J. Gill SJ MD, published by Spectrum Publications, PO Box 75, Richmond VIC 3121 (email: for The Humanita Foundation -





media release


for immediate release 19 July 2002



Sex, love and the church



Fr Jim Gill is a Catholic priest and also a psychiatrist. He has years of experience in the area of adult education, especially in the area of reaching sexual maturity. He is the founder of The Christian Institute for the Study of Human Sexuality.


His insights into intimacy, morality and human growth address the core issues confronting Christianity today.


In a new publication, To educate and to form, Fr Gill speaks openly and frankly about these issues. How can one live in the tension created by our ideals and the inevitable realitites we encounter on our journey? What is the place of love and sexuality in the human growth process?


To educate and to form is challenging and truthful. It is a valuable basis for prayerful reflection and discussion for all involved in faith education and spiritual formation.


In To educate and to form, Fr Gill speaks with Fr John Ryan. John works as a counsellor with Centacare in Canberra and is a foundation member of Humanita.


For further information, or to interview John Ryan, phone (02) 6295 4315