Gerard J. MCGLONE, S.J. and Len SPERRY, eds. The Inner Life of Priests. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2012. pp. 201. $19.85 pb. ISBN978-0-8146-3438-7. Reviewed by James T. BRETZKE, S.J., Boston College School of Theology & Ministry, Chestnut Hill, MA 20467
This collection of twelve relatively short chapters focuses on psychological assessment of seminarians and priests, bringing together the work of eight individuals, most of whom have extensive involvement in either diocesan seminary education or treatment of priests and religious with behavioral issues, usually of a sexual nature. The two psychologist editors authored or co-authored 10 of the chapters, with three of these co-authored with Fernando Ortiz, another psychologist who works with McGlone at the St. John Vianney Treatment Center in Downington, PA in the Philadelphia Archdiocese whose web-site states it focuses on “recovery, reconciliation and a return to ministry” of clergy and religious who have exhibited “behavioral health issues.” Another contribution comes from Archbishop J. Michael Miller, the former secretary to the Congregation for Education on the proper role of psychology in seminary formation, and a concluding chapter of reflections on the inner life of priests offered by Sr. Katarina Schuth, OSF, Msgr. Jeremiah McCarthy (formerly of the L.A. Archdiocesan seminary), Jan Slattery from the Chicago Archdiocesan Office of Protection of Children and Youth, and Allen Deck, SJ, currently with the USCCB Secretariat for Cultural Diversity.
While the focus of the various chapters falls heavily on psychology there are some attempts to bring in theological and spiritual dimensions as well, though honestly more could have been done to incorporate these important dimensions. A number of short case-study vignettes are used to illustrate some of the clinical aspects, though for the most part these highlight more of the problem areas the authors routinely deal with in their professional capacity, rather than concentrating on basically healthy priests and seminarians who might profit from some greater attention to the psychological aspects of their vocation and priestly life in terms of better concretizing healthy life-long practices, avoiding burnout and the like.
In general seminary staff and formation personnel will find this book helpful, especially the two chapters which deal with the emerging concept of cultural competence in seminary formation and professional ministry. The authors do raise gingerly the problematic of a double-standard for priests and bishops in the area of sexual abuse and call into question the wisdom of the zero tolerance policy of the Dallas Charter. One area, though, they leave completely untouched is the that of the failures of their own profession to adequately treat clerical sexual offenders and to counsel bishops and religious superiors to allow these men back into ministry. This omission is particularly disappointing since the failure even to acknowledge the reasons for these professional miscues will not encourage greater trust in the discipline of psychology as it relates to treatment of sexual misbehavior. In this sense, then, perhaps the bishops’ zero tolerance policy remains the most prudent path to follow until such time as we can gain better confidence in the ability of clinical psychology to effectively treat perpetrators of sexual misbehavior.