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Posted January 6, 2003

An Excerpt from an interview with Dr. James Gill, S.J.

Founder of the Christian Institute for the Study of Human Sexuality
Taken from an interview by Pattie Wigand Sporrong
Marketing and Communications Director, Catholic Theological Union in Chicago


What do you consider the most significant educational issue around sexuality?

Dr. Gill: Right now, if you're looking at it in terms of normal, healthy sexuality, the issue where we most need research and understanding pertains to homosexuality.

If you're looking at pathology and its implications for evil, it would be the sexual abuse of children.

Underlying all individual topics is an urgent need to learn more about how as parents, educators, religious formators, we can help children grow up to be fully mature Christian persons.

How is the church doing in response to the sexual crisis in the church?

Dr. Gill: In the old days I would have answered by telling you how the pope is doing, what bishops are doing, and then appraise their success.

But in view of Vatican II and what's happened in the past year or two, I would start by talking about what alerted the laity to their role in the church an the importance of their involvement in correcting what needs correcting and achieving what needs to be achieved.

All over the country we see signs that the laity are putting time, effort, and energy into coming together and seriously grappling with the issues that face the church. I see that as solid progress and extremely promising in relations to the years ahead. It's going to be a different church if you measure it by involvement of the majority of people who are the church, namely, the laity.

In a more traditional view, I would say the pope is very consistent in his effort to uphold the traditional views of the church about the human person, human life, human sexuality, moral sexual behavior, and the place of family life and role of all the members of the church within the body of Christ. But I am not sure the Holy Father recognizes that the sexual abuse among clergy is not just a moral fault, and in this country a crime, but also a serious mental disorder that requires a long, deep therapeutic intervention with a "cure" never guaranteed.

I spent years as a consultant to the bishops committee on sexual abuse. Through all those meetings over the years, I learned how conscientious the bishops were trying to do what is right for people who were abused as well as their families, while at the same time trying to be helpful to the priests, getting them adequate care to deal with their pathology. However, we have a lot of evidence that some bishops had a great deal to learn about human nature and human sexuality. The fact that it took them so long to get around to what they accomplished in Dallas was evidence that their own preparation to deal with sexuality was lacking. It took years for them to see how serious the problem was and how many of their own members were covering up cases of priest-abusers who were moved from parish to parish to protect the "good image" of the church.

I thought CTU did a splendid thing this past year by inviting, on several occasions, people connected the Union for discussion of the sexual abuse problem. Faculty members and other consultants were on hand to present various views on important issues at stake, and audience members interacted in extremely thoughtful ways. It helped people understand what was going on and also of what must happen to solve these problems.