Thursday 11 March 2010

Oh, those well meaning pastoral counsellors & educators

And God bless them, they do mean well but most of the time, they really don't have a clue.

The earlier post brought to mind another incident from the 2002 AAR regional conference. I was delivering a paper called, "God Isn't Really like That! - Or is he? The Child, the Bible and the Patriarchal God". The woman who was chairing the session was so excited to meet me. She had read my articles and wanted to know if maybe, sometime, I would like to lecture in one of her classes. She also told me that Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza had mentioned me in her latest book, Wisdom Ways (which I ran out and bought, of course). I delivered the paper and there were lots of questions that continued after the session. The next day, while we were all in line for cafeteria-style lunch, she came up to me and said something like, I think I know why are so interested in all of this. You were in a sexual relationship with your minister when you were about 17. Where she got that age is beyond me. I stood in line and looked at her for a minute, thinking about how I was going to answer this. I did not, at that time, bring my personal history into these academic discussions, for what should be obvious reasons (at some point, I will do a blog on the horror show that evolved when I did about 3 years later). I looked at her and said, "No, I was sexually abused by a Roman Catholic priest when I was 8 years old." I don't recall the rest of the minimal conversation, but it had something to do with how I didn't really think that the issues were well handled within the pastoral counselling department at St. Paul's, after she said that they had a course in the Canon Law (!!!) department that dealt with that. Needless to say, I never heard from her again.

What was sort of funny (not ha ha funny, but ironic funny) was that about 3 years later, as a peer reviewer for the Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion, I was sent a paper (on impact of child sexual abuse on some adult women) that came from the MA in Pastoral Counselling program at St. Paul's. St. Paul's is a Roman Catholic seminary and university with one of the best libraries in North America. After a first quick run through of a paper, the first place I go to for the review process is the bibliography to see whether the appropriate literature had been accessed for the review of literature. This review of literature should serve as the basis for understanding material, setting up the hypothesis and discussing the results. It was missing at least 6 critical books (and my dissertation). All 7 of these items were easily available at either St. Paul's or the University of Ottawa or Carleton University (the 3 universities are rather close together, so distance isn't an excuse & St. Paul's and the University of Ottawa are affiliated). I actually checked the on-line libraries at U of O & Carleton. All of these items would have answered the questions that the authors of the paper had in their discussion section of the paper. They would also have changed the structure of some of the questions that were asked of the participants. It was my recommendation to send the paper back to the drawing board, in large part because of this. I wasn't surprised, but it is so depressing to actually see how little things had changed. I should note that I would have been one of a minimum of three reviewers, so mine wasn't the sole decision maker on this submission.

We are finally getting a number of dissertation on the subject of god images, spirituality, psychology, child sexual abuse and religion (read Christianity - there is such a privileging of Christianity in most writings - they use "religion" when they mean Christianity). I will be reviewing them on the blog. From a cursory glance at a couple of them, it will not be a happy task. I love electronic databases - they make tracking these things so much easier that it was even 5 years ago, but it does mean that I don't have any reason not to keep up with the latest in my field! Maybe this will spur me to publish a book, who knows?

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