Tests aim to weed out abusers

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 Rev. Stevan Wlusek of the diocese of London says candidates for the priesthood face rigorous screening. Photograph by: Dan Janisse, The Windsor Star, The Windsor Star

Candidates for clergy face close scrutiny Trevor Wilhelm

July 23, 2011

The Windsor Star

Potential priests in the London diocese must endure a series of psychological tests meant to weed out those with a host of potential issues, including sexual fantasies about children and other men.

Rev. Steve Wlusek, rector of St. Peter’s Seminary, said there is a 10-step application process to enter that requires reference letters and police checks. There are also psychological tests that are part of a threephrase process throughout the student’s seminary life.

He said the tests ask some pointed questions about sex.

“It asks about their fantasy life with regard to the kind of persons they have fantasies about,” said Wlusek. “So it would bring forward if they have any kind of fantasies or ideas about interacting with young people, most definitely.”

Any inclination toward children or homosexuality, he said, would be a non-starter.

“If we see those behaviours in the past, especially as demonstrated in the sexual testing that they do, that would be enough to not allow them to enter the program.”

The seminary, which has averaged between 10 and 20 new applicants annually in the last decade, requires would-be priests to take the testing to ferret out potential issues of depression, anxiety and anger along with sexuality.

“In the last 10 years especially, in light of some of the issues that have come forward with regard to sexual abuse by clergy, we have seen the responsibility we have to ensure that any candidate that enters here has a very clear personal psycho-sexual history,” said Wlusek.

There is no test which directly measures a candidate’s propensity for remaining celibate. Each phase of testing includes a “psycho sexual profile,” which does address the celibacy issue.

The first phase involves four psychological tests before someone is accepted to the seminary. At the end of the first year there are another four tests. After their pastoral year – a full year immersion in a parish setting – there are two more tests.

It’s all done in a supervised setting, and followed up by interviews from the seminary psychologist.

“Basically we are looking for healthy psycho-sexual maturity,” he said. “We are looking at any kinds of anxiety, anger issues, signs of depression. Also with regard to sexuality, a healthy sense of their own orientation, a sense of their own dating history, if there has been any kind of struggles in their past with regard to their own sexuality.”

Wlusek said the applicant’s sexual history is addressed in each phase of testing, which has evolved considerably from when he entered the seminary 25 years ago.

“There is more of a concerted effort to discern an individual’s sexual orientation, sexual history, struggles with maintaining celibate chastity,” said Wlusek.

The tests ask “straightforward” questions about everything from orientation to past sexual experiences.

“It asks the person how do they perceive themselves as a sexual person,” said Wlusek. “Do they see themselves as heterosexual, homosexual? Their past experience, whether they have been approached in a sexual fashion by another male and how did they react to that. Have they had any kind of fantasies or thoughts about people of the same sex. It gets quite deep into their own personal inventory.”

After entry, the seminary formation program also puts a lot of focus on holistic development, he said. There are conferences on spiritual life, human formation looking at family of origin issues, psychological development, emotional behaviour and emotional maturity in relationships.

“We have two years on development in the whole aspect of celibate chastity and one’s call to live the celibate life and how to prepare one’s self for that call,” said Wlusek.

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