Fitzgibbons Makes Distinctions of Same-Sex Attractions
WEST CONSHOHOCKEN, Pennsylvania, 5 DEC. 2005 (ZENIT)
The new Vatican document on the priesthood and homosexual tendencies
mentions a range of conditions, from deep-seated homosexual tendencies
to transitory same-sex attractions.
To learn more about the nuances of the range of homosexual tendencies
and their treatment, ZENIT turned to Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, a
psychiatrist, author and contributor to the Catholic Medical
Association's document "Homosexuality
Part 2 of this interview will appear Tuesday.
Q: How would you distinguish between someone with same-sex attractions
and someone with deep-seated homosexual tendencies?
Fitzgibbons: Those with deep-seated homosexual tendencies identify
homosexual persons and are usually unwilling to examine their emotional
conflicts that caused this tendency. Strong physical attraction is
present to other men's bodies and to the masculinity of others due to
profound weakness in male confidence.
These individuals in the priesthood have a significant affective
immaturity with excessive anger and jealousy toward males who are not
homosexual, insecurity that leads them to avoid close friendships with
such males and an inordinate need for attention.
Most of these men had painful adolescent experiences of significant
loneliness and sadness, felt insecure in their masculinity, and had a
poor body image. Well-designed research studies have demonstrated a much
higher prevalence of psychiatric illness in those who identify
themselves as homosexual.
Under severe stress they may even experience strong physical and sexual
attraction to adolescent males, as has occurred in the crisis in the
Church. Frequently, they may have difficulty working in a collegial and
comfortable way with heterosexual males.
Unresolved paternal anger is regularly misdirected as rebellion against
the magisterium and the Church's teaching on sexual morality.
Unfortunately, their denial, defensiveness and anger block their
openness to seek the Lord's help with their emotional and behavioral
Those with mild homosexual tendencies do not identify themselves as
homosexuals. Such men are motivated to understand and to overcome their
emotional conflicts. They regularly seek psychotherapy and spiritual
The goal of counseling is to uncover early conflicts, forgive those who
hurt them and increase their male confidence
which in time may lead to the resolution of same-sex attractions.
Such men accept and want to live and teach the fullness of the Church's
teaching on sexual morality. They do not support the homosexual culture
but see it as antithetical to the universal call to holiness.
Q: Are there psychological tests which can be helpful in identifying
candidates with same-sex attractions or deep-seated homosexual
Fitzgibbons: Yes, the Boy Gender Conformity Scale from the University of
Indiana and the Clarke Sexual History Questionnaire can identify with
90% accuracy males with same-sex attractions. Also, an extensive history
of childhood and adolescent experiences with the father and male peers,
and of the body, can identify deep-seated homosexuality.
Simply asking a candidate if he is heterosexual or homosexual, as is
done in many seminaries and religious communities, is not sufficient.
Q: What would your recommendations be for a candidate who has same-sex
attractions or who demonstrates homosexual tendencies?
Fitzgibbons: When the evaluation reveals probable same-sex attractions,
a recommendation is given to uncover and engage in the hard work of
resolving his emotional pain with a competent mental health professional
and spiritual director. After the candidate's male confidence has grown
significantly and he no longer has same-sex attractions, he could
In our clinical experience
those with deep-seated homosexual tendencies lack an understanding of
the origins of their conflicts and of the possibility of healing. Many
of these men also make a commitment to work on their emotional
Q: What would your recommend for current seminarians who have same-sex
attractions or demonstrate homosexual tendencies or significant
Fitzgibbons: Given the present crisis in the Church, with 80% of the
abuse involving homosexual assaults of adolescent males, seminarians and
those in formation in religious communities with same-sex attractions
have a serious responsibility to protect the Church from further shame
They should attempt to understand and resolve their emotional conflicts
with a qualified mental health professional and spiritual director.
Seminarians with effeminacy, a clear sign of serious affective
immaturity, usually failed in their childhood to identify sufficiently
with their fathers and male peers. They can benefit from therapy to
extinguish effeminate mannerisms and to strengthen their appreciation of
their God-given masculinity so that they may become true spiritual
Seminarians with deep-seated homosexual tendencies should discuss their
conflicts honestly with their spiritual directors and be guided by the
Church's recent statement. We have seen many young men overcome these
tendencies over the past 30 years when a spiritual component was
incorporated into their treatment plan as in the treatment of substance
The research of Dr. Bob Spitzer of the department of psychiatry at
Columbia University School of Medicine has given hope to many young men
in regard to the healing of their emotional conflicts.
Q: What are the major emotional and character issues which you believe
should be addressed in the human formation programs in seminaries?
Fitzgibbons: A 2005 national study demonstrated that 28.8% of Americans
will have an anxiety disorder in their lifetime, 24.8% an
impulse-control disorder and 20.8% a mood disorder.
The most common origins of these emotional weaknesses in men arise from
a lack of closeness and affirmation in the father relationship and with
male peers. These emotional conflicts result in weaknesses in male
confidence, sadness, loneliness, anger and often a poor body image. In
addition, those from divorced family backgrounds have major trust
The predominant character weakness in our culture is that of
selfishness, which is a major obstacle of self-giving in every vocation.
Good psychological testing and history taking could identify various
types of emotional pain that the candidate could address in his
spiritual life with his spiritual director, and if necessary with a
qualified mental health professional. Conferences for seminarians on
growth in affective maturity and in self-giving can be helpful in
identifying and in resolving the conflicts which interfere with
Q: What criteria would indicate that a seminarian has achieved affective
Fitzgibbons: In my professional experience the major indicator of
affective maturity in every vocation is healthy, balanced self-giving
that includes the ability to receive from God and from others.
Affective maturity is also demonstrated by the ability to address the
most common emotional stresses; that is, anxiety, weak confidence,
anger, loneliness and sadness. Anxiety can be overcome by growth in
trust and in confidence; anger by growth in the virtue of forgiveness,
and loneliness or sadness by growth in the ability to receive the love
of God and others on a regular basis and to give oneself.
Childhood and adolescent conflicts in these areas may also need to be
uncovered and addressed. Also, a commitment to grow in numerous ways is
necessary for the development of a healthy personality. ZE05120523
Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons on Help for Those With Same-Sex
WEST CONSHOHOCKEN, Pennsylvania, 6 DEC. 2005 (ZENIT)
Many priests grow in holiness and happiness in their ministry as a
result of the healing of their childhood and adolescent male insecurity,
loneliness and anger and, subsequently, their same-sex attractions.
So says Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, a psychiatrist, author and contributor
to the Catholic Medical Association's document "Homosexuality and Hope."
Fitzgibbons shared with ZENIT how some seminarians, candidates for the
seminary, and priests can make strides in resolving their homosexual
tendencies, and what bishops and religious superiors can do to help
Part 1 of this interview appeared Monday.
Q: How can spiritual directors help seminarians or priests who have
Fitzgibbons: Spiritual directors can help seminarians and priests by
understanding that same-sex attractions are treatable and are not
genetically determined. They can encourage seminarians and priests to
face their emotional pain with the Lord's help, particularly their
Spiritual directors who actively and honestly engage in inner healing
prayer and who can help apply the healing graces of St. Ignatius of
Loyola's rules for the discernment of spirits can facilitate the healing
Q: The new Vatican instruction says that homosexual tendencies that are
a manifestation of a transitory problem
for example, delayed adolescence
must be clearly overcome at least three years before diaconal
ordination. What is your opinion of that?
Fitzgibbons: I believe that this statement means that it is not
sufficient for the seminarian to be chaste for three years. He must also
first know himself; that is, understand his emotional conflicts which
cause same-sex attractions and have worked to resolve those conflicts.
Chastity for three years is not adequate because under stress in
priestly ministry unresolved loneliness, isolation or insecurity from
the adolescent life stage could lead to same-sex attractions
even attraction to adolescent males in an unconscious attempt to escape
from one's pain.
Dr. [Robert L.] Spitzer's recent research findings and many clinical
studies support this view that homosexual tendencies can be transitory
Q: What would you recommend for priests who have same-sex attractions or
Fitzgibbons: I would recommend that they become more knowledgeable about
the emotional origins and healing of same-sex attractions, as well as
the serious medical and psychiatric illnesses associated with
Also, in view of the John Jay report findings that 80% of the priestly
abuse cases were with adolescent males, priests with same-sex
attractions have a serious responsibility to protect the Church and
youth from further scandal by working to understand and resolve their
same-sex attractions. Adolescent males need to be protected from
We have observed many priests grow in holiness and in happiness in their
ministry as a result of the healing of their childhood and adolescent
male insecurity, loneliness and anger and, subsequently, their same-sex
attractions. This healing process has been described in the statement of
the Catholic Medical Association, "Homosexuality and Hope."
Our experience over 25 years has convinced us of the direct link between
rebellion and anger against the Church's teaching, and sexually
This appears to be a two-way street: Those who are sexually active
dissent from the Church's teaching on sexuality to justify their own
actions, while those who adopt rebellious ideas on sexual morality are
more vulnerable to become sexually active, because they have little to
no defense against sexual temptations.
Growth in forgiveness and humility are essential in the treatment of
Q: How could bishops and religious superiors help their priests who have
Fitzgibbons: If bishops encouraged priests with homosexual tendencies to
pursue appropriate therapy and spiritual direction with those loyal to
the Church's teaching, they too would witness healing of their priests.
Also, priests would be helped if the "crisis boundary" programs did not
mask the role of homosexuality in the abuse of the adolescent male
victims. Instead, these programs should describe why adult males might
be sexually attracted to adolescents and how this conflict can be
In view of the John Jay report, bishops should consider protecting young
men by not permitting priests with deep-seated homosexuality to have
teaching or other ministries in schools, colleges and seminaries.
Finally, bishops should be aware that there are many "experts" who
ignore medical science or are swayed by political correctness.
USCCB National Review Board member Dr. Paul McHugh, former
psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, stated recently: "I'm
amazed that this fundamental bombshell"
of the abuse of adolescent males
"has not been the subject of greater interest and discussion."
He told the National Catholic Register, "I'm astonished that people
throughout America are not talking about it, thinking about it and
wondering about what the mechanisms were that set this alight."
There is every reason to hope that with this new document the Church
will progress along the necessary path of purification described by John
Paul II in April 2002 in his meeting with cardinals and bishops on the