CATHOLIC priests in training at the Vianney College seminary at Wagga will undergo a second psychological assessment before being ordained as deacons as part of the church’s response to the nation’s child sex scandal.
The second test was revealed by seminary rector, Reverend Father Peter Thompson, when he appeared at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Fr Thompson said that for the most part, seminarians have been assessed in their first year at the college, but from this year each man would be tested again before being considered for the diaconate.
He said the reason for adding second test was “by the time they get to their seventh year their original psychological test is a long way away.”
Fr Thompson was asked by commissioner Robert Fitzgerald if over his 14 years as rector he had identified characteristics that would concern him today in a young man entering the seminary that might not have concerned him some time ago.
“… certainly a young man who was not able to understand or live by the ordinary boundaries that are laid down in the documents of the church, that would be a concern,” Fr Thompson said.
“Someone who tended to form small groups, someone who could not mix widely with the larger community, who would tend to form some sort of clique … that would be one thing that I would look for.”
Fr Thompson told the commission a danger sign of a potential child sex offender among seminarians would be “a general lack of discipline, a lack of prayer life, a lack of seeming commitment to what the priesthood is all about.”
That view was questioned by Commissioner Fitzgerald, who said the evidence would indicate there were many perpetrators within the Catholic faith and other faiths, who ostensibly were extraordinarily prayerful and devoted.
“I would think, to a large extent, the impression that they are loyal or that they conscientious to their prayer life, and so forth, might be just an appearance,” Fr Thompson replied.
“I can’t see that a man who is seriously coming before the Lord every day in prayer would do something so much against the law of God, both in the area of chastity and in the area of harming children, to abuse.”
Fr Thompson surprised the commission by saying his impression was priests who abused don’t go to confession.
“We had evidence to the contrary yesterday,” commission chair, Justice Peter McClelland, said in response to Fr Thompson’s view.