Monday, 22 March 2010

John Bell's Thought for the day.

A challenging thought for the day which I listened to on the way to work this morning. In the wake of the Pope's response to child abuse and cover up in the Catholic Church, John Bell, of the Iona community, speaks about the pastoral response, not to victims, but to those who have (unacted) attractions to children. The protection of children must always come first, but Bell deals thoughtfully with a difficult topic that we are tempted to shy away from.
( I couldn't download the player, so you will have to click on the link and may have to find the relevant day.)


  1. Blimey, that is quite a Thought for the Day. My initial response is twofold.. I almost blogged a while back about an encounter I had with someone who was linking homosexuality to paedophilia. It seems a common belief that people abuse children because they are sexually attracted to them. I believe that this is rarely true and it is about power; in the creation of fear and torment of another an abuser (often suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder) may restore their feeling of superiority. I was on a training course for how to deal with survivors of childhood sexual abuse and the survivors all said that it was not about sex but about power.

    The second thought is that paedophilia can be an 'acting out' for a sex addict. This may feel like an attraction to children but it is really more about the condition of being an addict: the self-loathing that the addict has is given credibility by performing acts that the addict despises him or herself for.

    Hence... I don't really recognise the type of person that John Bell is talking about..

  2. I agree, it has been argued that paedophiles harm or kill children to hide their guilt about breaking the greatest taboo of western society. Perhaps if we tried to get help for them BEFORE they enact fantasies then children would be safer. Open, but sensitively handled, debate is required.Enacting fantasies has many levels such as downloading child porn which promotes, affirms & financial rewards abusers.

    However, predatory paedophiles often will train for a career or start a relationship with a parent simply to gain access to children so they aren't likely to ever come for help.

    We must be careful that we don't, to coin a clumsy piece of nomenclature, "clinicise" paedophilia or we might up undermine child protection through expoiltation of equality legislation.

  3. It's so unhelpful to put a single bracket around what is obviously a huge spectrum of motivations, desires, and actions.

    There was a Louis Theroux documentary on BBC 2 last year where he visited a hospital/prison where 'sexually violent predators' go when they're near the end of their prison sentance.

    It was useful to see paedophiles being presented as humans first, some showing repentance, and (IIRC) some having turned to Christ for forgiveness.

  4. I think that there might be a "huge spectrum of motivations". I used to think, as Lesley suggests, that paedophillia found its roots solely in power - I think that is a huge factor, I am not sure it is the only factor.

    I don't "recognise" nor have I spoken to the sort of person John Bell is talking about either - but then there are reasons why I wouldn't and there is no doubt he did talk to such a person!

  5. I am sure you are right that there are a huge spectrum of motivations... I spent a day at a Young Offenders institute where they have a very successful program for those in the Sexual Offenders wing... I thought it had remarkable similarity to the 12 step programme for addicts and I think people fall into the downward spiral of addiction for many and various reasons.

    More than anything the programme encouraged the regaining of empathy for others, and that is the staggering thing that I think is missing with paedophilia, that someone can perform acts that torture and traumatise children without stopping in mercy. Hence I think it is a reality that many perpetrators have NPD and I think that is borne out in the literature.

    I am sure John Bell met this person, I too had someone, a young woman, come to me for counselling many years ago, with the same issue.. these days I would lay odds that she had been hurt as a child herself and was fretting unnecessarily.

  6. Sorry for my last comment was written so badly. (I don't like to mention that I was abused as a small child, but I felt uncomfortable while commenting. Sorry.

  7. I don't think it was written badly at all.. and yeah, me too.

  8. It wasn't badly written - and, yes, it looks like there are a few of us, as I said in my email to you, Derek.