Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Response to Michael Bayly

My last post on an 8-year-old "transgendered" boy in Colorado excited responses from a frequent visitor to my site Michael Bayly (StatCounter doesn't lie, dude), who is executive coordinator of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities.

His latest response was initially posted here and I'm bringing it out and up, because I want to respond in detail, an exercise I think worthy because so much of the basis for his scandalous counterwitness is so common. His words are in italics and block quotes, with my responses on each point following.
You seem to be conflating issues of gender and sexuality. Just because a child (or anyone, for that matter) identifies with the opposite gender doesn't mean they want to be sexually active.
It may not. My point is not about the particulars of what this child wants but his general competence to speak on sexual matters. I repeat my unanswered question ... if an 8-year-old is competent to decide “gender identification” (which, while not the same thing as sexual behavior, is inextricable from it) as you seem to think, Mr. Bayly, why is he not competent to decide whether to be sexually active. It doesn’t matter what said decision of this 8-year-old or any particular one may be. “Age of consent” laws rest on the assumption of incompetence and inagency, not an empirical matter of whether a competent agent actually wants to.

Further, what harm is done, exactly, by parents and schools here doing what they traditionally would have done, which is to chalk this boy's feelings up to a phase and wait till he grows out of it. If it is just a phase or an excessive imagination or curiosity, you've spared him years of humiliation and steered him away from a self-fulfilling prophecy (i.e., he would **come** to see himself that way by everybody else indulging himself). And if it isn't a phase, if there really is such a thing as a "transgendered person" (which I doubt, but I'll stipulate for the moment) and he is an example of that ... he'll still be a "transgendered person" when he turns 18 or 21 or some such age when he can then act accordingly -- snip it off, cram hormones, wear dresses, change his name, etc. The only possible harm I can see is "repression" as an adolescent, though in this day and age I see that as a positive good.

I mean ... I hope you DO realize that (1) kids have phases that are mostly meaningless and (2) that a child should not get everything he wants and/or his wanting something is not a moral warrant. (Actually, I'm pretty confident you realize (1); not so much (2).)
So your mentioning of NAMBLA is misleading and, quite frankly, rather bizarre. Then again, perhaps it's an attempt to demonize and silence any opposing viewpoints. "Oh, you watched that film ["Ma Vie en Rose"] so you must be supportive or aligned in some way with NAMBLA!"
Given that I said I saw the film myself, I rather doubt that’s a reasonable reading.

What I do think does associate you with NAMBLA is your apparent assumption, correct me if you don’t hold it (though it certainly seemed to be your point in citing it) that “Ma Vie en Rose” tells us some great truth about the human person that our Courage group meetings could profit from. One might enjoy (parts of) "Ma Vie en Rose" as a kind of fairy-tale movie, but you brought it up in the context of this real-life Colorado case, which rather suggests you think it insightful. And yes, if a boy of 7 or 8 is a sexual agent competent to decide his/her/its/their “gender identity,” then NAMBLA is correct and our current taboo on "intergenerational love" (that's what it will be called, BTW ... and what DO you have against love, Mr. Bayly) is every bit as irrational as you think past taboos against "same-sex love" were.
Sorry, but that's a ridiculous and false assertion, and I for one won't be cowered by it.
Just to avoid a potential misunderstanding (and one that I'm sensitive to regarding men like us) I’m not saying that you diddle 7-year-old boys or have any desire to, or that your homosexual attractions per se either incline you that way or are evidence that you secretly may be doing so.

Nor am I saying that "diddling 7-year-old boys is good" is a thought you hold self-consciously. But I am saying, and I will stand by this, that "diddling 7-year-old boys is good" is the endgame logic of ideas that you DO consciously hold and practices like the Colorado parents and school-district's that you DO consciously defend (that's how cultural degradation advances ... like warming up the water in a lobster-pot).
And what am I closed-minded about exactly?
Three things I can think of quickly, that I'll phrase in the form of things you closed-mindedly deny ... that same-sex sex and all other sex outside marriage is wrong; that sexual desires do not definitively type the human person; that the Church has a real teaching office.
I fully support you in living a life of celibacy if that's how you feel called. Yet you can't say to me that you support me in building and sustaining a loving and committed relationship with another man. Why is that?
I rather doubt your "support" given some of the picketing you've done.

But to avoid the personal stuff ... the problem is in your usage “feel called.” No ... it’s what I **am** called to. I can pretty much assure you that I often DON’T “feel” called. And if I were married and Sophia Loren¹ were to come and whisper sweet nothings in my ear, at that moment, I wouldn't "feel called" to marital fidelity either. Feelings simply do not create moral warrants or obligations (this is another thing on which I don't know whether you are closed-minded or simply haven't thought it through).

Anyway, I don’t have any problem with anybody having a “loving, committed relationship,” properly understood. But if same-sex sex is always immoral (it all does eventually come back to that), then engaging in it is not “loving.” I well understand that same-sex sex feels good (there’s that verb again) and can be enjoyable. But “feels good” and “enjoy” are not the same things as “loving” though; and attempts to derive “loving” from those unquestionable facts are ... well, it’s "Katie, bar the door" time on just about anything (NAMBLA actually would be a minor issue).

I’ll even say the following. Any sin can be aggravated, and therefore “not aggravated” and thus (speaking strictly relatively) less bad. So, there are aggravated and not-so-aggravated ways of living the gay lifestyle. And perhaps over time, a legitimate friendship can grow and fucking can leave the picture. Suffice to say though that this is extremely rare and certainly not the desired eschaton of Dignity, et al.
Similarly, I'm fine for Courage to exist and help people. Yet you can't seem to say the same thing about Dignity. So who's really being closed-minded here?
I freely admit to being closed-minded about certain matters, including matters that the Church has definitively taught. Anyway, open-mindedness is not a virtue that anyone seriously holds; it's merely a holding strategy for debunking morals one thinks wrong.
As to my "questions and issues" not being compatible with scripture, tradition, and right reason, that's very much open to discussion and debate. Do we really know exactly what scripture is condemning with regard same-sex relations?

In part because Tradition always read it that way, including in times when they were far closer to the social context than we could ever be. I must say I find it darkly humorous that people dismiss the Greek-speaking Church Fathers of the 2nd-4th centuries as having a poor or at best irrelevant understanding of the subtleties and cultural shadings of the text (which pro-gay apologists must say, if they are to dismiss their unanimous teaching on sodomy), but think Mel White or John Spong have a good one.

In part because Scripture has a broader, normative vision of what sexuality in general is, one that is not reducible to issues of Koine translation on the two or three New Testament proof texts on homosexuality². For example, and Pope John Paul begins "Theology of the Body" with these passages, the Church teaching reflects Our Lord's words on divorce and His citing of Genesis 2-3, and what it says about embodied sexual complementarity as part of our nature, created as good in the beginning. Homosexual acts do not, by their nature, meet that broad normative understanding.
Most reputable biblical scholars would say that its exploitive sex that, more often than not, is being condemned. And rightly so.
Dale somewhat beat me to the punch ... and given what counts as reputation-enhancing in the American academy, the more “reputed” a Biblical scholar is, the less likely I am to believe him. (Puts on Joe Piscopo-in-"Johnny Dangerously" voice) I read Bart Ehrman once. Once.
But what about loving and committed [homosexual] relationships? Where are they condemned?
Scripture also doesn’t mention 4-sided triangles or male pregnancy or nonviolent boxing because everyone simply understood that these things were as oxymoronic as gay “marriage.”
As for tradition, that's a living thing
No, not Tradition with a capital-T in the Catholic sense of that word, which always has to take account what went before and whether any new statements are compatible with what went before. What you’re describing is democracy, or, at best, a radically congregationalist, and thus un-Catholic, understanding of sensus fidelium.

I also should add that I find it darkly humorous that everyone who says "tradition is a living thing" becomes a fire-breathing proof-texting fundamentalist when one of their pet teachings is trampled on -- "you know, my conscience tells me that homosexual persons should be the object of violent malice in speech and action" (which actually is a proposition that would find more proof-text support in the writings of more Church authorities than "same-sex sex is good" would).
and accordingly should be informed and shaped by new insights and knowledge - including insights and knowledge related to human sexuality.
What “new insights and knowledge” might you be referring to? It cannot be the fact of homosexual acts, which were quite well known in the Hellenized Mediterranean world. Nor the fact that certain people may develop habits, which was just as well understood. Nor psychology, which is largely self-fulfilling prophecy about how people feel, not knowledge of how things are. And certainly not genetics, which has definitively refuted radical-biologism as the genesis of homosexuality (a deterministic cause might, strictly in principle, have provided the kind of serious “new knowledge” that would require doctrine to develop; but it isn’t true, as experience long ago told us and modern science merely confirms on a new basis).

No ... the only “new insights and knowledge” here is that a small group of people have chosen to define themselves according to a sinful act and accordingly warped their souls into moral blindness.
That's not happening in the Roman Catholic Church.
Actually, that’s not true. The Church’s pastoral understanding has developed a great deal on this subject, and for the better, in the last 40 years ... and that’s OK because pastoral practice has much more to do with the social particulars than moral truth does. A non-condemnatory support group like Courage (or Project Rachel to give an example of a pastoral response to a degraded cultural fact other than homosexuality) would have been unthinkable 50 or 100 years ago. Then, a man like myself probably would have been encouraged to “deal with it” by marrying. And more likely than not, damaged some woman and probably some children in the process. Now, the Church discourages marriage as cure-seeking.
Accordingly, to suggest that the Church's sexual theology is supported by "right reason" is a joke, and the vast majority of Catholics - gay or straight - know it.
I repeat what I said about “democracy.” The Church is not, and cannot be, a democracy (nor can even a secularized understanding of "reason" be either). So the fact you cite, true enough though it probably is, is of no moral weight whatever.

And frankly, in the current social environment of ill-formation, secularization, poor catechesis, dissent-worship, faithlessness, authority-phobia, a pornified public space and self-worshiping individualism -- it would be more surprising if most Catholics did think reason supports Church teaching. That doesn't make the teaching untrue. Or optional. Or not binding.
¹ The photo is because I have to give the heterosexuals some reason to come here and there was too much text with no art otherwise.
² None of which BTW feature much "discussion" of the subject per se but usually only mention a condemnation en passant in service of some other point. Which indicates (1) that St. Paul can assume the reader's assent as one of his minor premises, and relatedly (2) that there was no issue of overturning the unanimous inherited Jewish tradition on the matter, as Scripture records that there was on diet and circumcision.


jeron said...

An excellent response to Mr. Bayly, CM. Bravo!

Jim said...

I would come to your site consistently even without the pictures because you are one of the most insightful bloggers around. As a heterosexual male of 30 years marriage and six grown children I say that. What is interesting to me is you can substitute almost any appetite or habitual sin and your analysis is still on the money. God bless you.

Jim said...

I would come to your site consistently even without the pictures because you are one of the most insightful bloggers around. As a heterosexual male of 30 years marriage and six grown children I say that. What is interesting to me is you can substitute almost any appetite or habitual sin and your analysis is still on the money. God bless you.

Mike said...

OK, since we're all commenting on a situation where none of us really know the situation anyway, I'll may as well chime in.

It seems to me that it would be bad to encourage children to gratuitously deviate from the norm too greatly, because, like it or not, others would make their life more difficult, and as CourageMan rightly points out, it may be a passing desire. Was there any pressure on the child to conform to standard roles? It seems there should be at least some.

On the other hand, forcing a person, even a child, to conform to categories, and societal expectations simply because we don't approve of it, is, to me, immoral. Especially if it is just because someone wrote that it was wrong in a book written in and around the Bronze-Age.

Instead of passing judgment, the moral thing to do, is to act to reduce pain and harm.

CourageMan, just curious, if the child was born a hermaphrodite, which happens due to a developmental quirk, which gender does the Bible say we must morally force the child to conform to? Can you not understand that these developmental quirks, can also happen, unseen in the brain?

Rick said...

Dear mike:
I hope CourageMan does not mind if I step in here. I am a psychologist, who over 25 years ago treated patients with the Klinefelters variant of the hermaphrodite, (now called the intersexual), whose sexual genotype is usually XXY. From birth, the Klinefelters patient has the phenotype of a normal male (as are most intersexuals), and most parents and relatives don't recognize the intersexual condition until there's genetic testing, subsequent to other phenotypic anomalies that bring them to the attention of a medical specialist. By all accounts, the early socialization of the Klinefelters person is male, and continued male socialization has proved to be therapeutically effective. For the standard Klinefelters patient, testosterone treatments can be helpful along with socialization training that can be an extremely effective therapeutic when they transition into adolescence. Clinically, the biggest issue with the Klinefelters patient is breast enlargement that begins around puberty. However, this feature may not be as much of an issue now with childhood obesity affecting so many boys and where the breast enlargement is more common. When I was working with Klinefelters patients and their families 25 years ago, there were no treatment standards, but today there are treatment protocols and they conform pretty much with the approach that I and my colleagues used in the 1980s.

With the rise of gay and transgender activism among the psychological specialists, along with sexual confusion in the culture, I expect the established treatment protocol of the Klinefelters patient to change over the next decade. It will be a pity if and when it does, and will probably lead to an increase in suicides among these folks. On this last matter, I speak from professional experience.

Mike said...

Thank you Rick. That was interesting and informative. I will defer to your experience as I clearly have none here. My point was simply that compassion, and not the bible or religion, should drive our actions.

I, as you, am concerned with well being, and not inflicting harm or ridicule. Certainly, decreasing stress and suicide are laudable goals.

As I said, I agree that it would be bad to encourage an individual to have a particular identity for political, religious, or any other reason that isn't in the interest of the well being of that person, regardless of the political leaning of the "professional". I share your concern that professionals would try to steer these individuals for there own purposes.

Since you are an expert, and you are saying there is typically a male identification, I'm curious if you know any of the details behind Jayme Lee Curtis? Popular culture says she was born a hermaphrodite, but I don't know if this is true.

rick said...

Dear mike,
Just to clarify, the person with Klinefelters (XXY) has the usual male identification. There are other forms of the hermaphrodite/intersexual that are much more rare than the Klinefelsters type. I am not aware of the usual gender identification for these folks. I suspect (but this is only an educated guess) that they will initially identify as males if their genitals at birth are male-like, and they will identify as females if the genitalia are female-like.

On your point about what should drive our actions as individuals and professionals: what underlies anyone's conscious choices is his or her world view. What I mean by world view, is that system of beliefs about the nature of happiness, and the conditions that lead to it. The world view also informs our emotions to a large degree, and therefore, when you say that compassion (and not religion) should drive our actions, one may ask "compassion for who, and about what, and how?"

Compassion is an emotion that perceives distress in another person, and proposes a course of action to alleviate the distress. Note, however, that whether one recognizes the distress in the other person, and whether the nature of the distress is understood by the observer are to some extent influenced by his world view. Also, the course of action that one takes in response to the distress is influenced by one's world view. In many cases the need for compassion is obvious to everyone; for example, the person lying in the road after being hit by a car.

However, there are numerous cases in medicine and psychology, where the role of compassion is for more difficult to determine. For example, suppose a patient presents to the physician the following symptoms: tightness and pain the central chest area, shortness of breath, and some dizziness. The patient sincerely believes that he is suffering from a heart condition. The doctor does a thorough evaluation and determines there are no heart problems, and that the symptoms may be due to anxiety or hypochondria. One doctor's world view moves him to tell the patient as simply as possible the medical truth of his condition; this doctor does not hesitate to tell the patient in a nice manner that he will not medicate the patient for any heart condition, and that the patient should seek out a psychiatrist. The patient on his part, has a strong belief, that the doctor is wrong, and insists that he be examined again. What does the doctor do? What is the compassionate thing to do?

Now suppose there's another doctor, with a different world view that refuses to tell the hypochondriac patient that he does not have heart condition, and simply prescribes him a placebo. Is this doctor more compassionate to the patient? In the short run, he makes the patient feel better because he validates the patient's mistaken belief that he has a heart condition. One might say, it's not compassionate to treat the patient for a condition that he really has. Yet the response might be: Yes, but the patient sincerely and obstinately clings to the idea that he has a heart condition, and it would cruel to force the truth on him.

What is really in the patient's best interest? The answer to this question in this example is influenced to some extent by the world view of the doctor.

Now on the question of sexual identity. Fifty years ago, the universal opinion of psychiatry was that homosexual identification was a neurotic and treatable condition. Perhaps the residual social influences of the Bible and religion influenced this professional opinion, but I do know that then, as today, an influential segment of psychiatry was populated by men who had little interest in religion or the Bible. However, what they tended to agree upon back then was that the primary purpose of sex was procreation. A simple dispassionate look at nature of all the species shows that sex is for procreation.

Today, psychiatry is divided on the question of the normalcy of homosexual identification and whether it is treatable. One factor that has changed since then is that most professionals no longer believe that the primary purpose of sex is procreation. Birth control, sterilization, abortion, and most recently, sex reassignment, are all lucrative businesses (not to mention pornography).

A large portion of doctors today look at sexual behavior in a very different light than they did 50 years ago. In my opinion, chances in the belief about the procreative feature of sex has shifted the world view of doctors, and therefore, how they view the compassionate response. Surveys of medical students over the last 30 years show that a major motivation for going through medical school is to make a lot of money after graduation and residency training.

Scientific discovery did not drive this shift in attitude or world view, social pressure and money did. So you see, religion and the Bible don't shape the compassionate response as much as they used to. Now, its secular social pressure and the pursuit of money. So my question is, is today's non-religious doctor more compassionate than yesterday's bible thumper?

Mike said...

Psychologist Rick said...
...the person with Klinefelters (XXY) has the usual male identification. There are other forms of the hermaphrodite/intersexual...I suspect...they will initially identify as males if their genitals...are male-like, females if...female-like.

Fair enough. It seemed to me you were implying that hermaphrodites as a group had a male identification, but no matter. My point, again, was simply that a person should not be unreasonably forced to conform to any particular norm, nor encouraged blithely to deviate from the norm. This is true regardless of outward appearance. I can't speak for anyone but myself, but if I woke up tomorrow, with the same mind I have today, but in the body of a female, that would not cause me to be attracted to men (hormonal effects notwithstanding). I think this is exactly the way it feels for some people from birth, and although this a minority of people, these people should get no less respect from the rest of us, nor be forced to "be" the sex of someone they are not.

...when you say that compassion (and not religion) should drive our actions, one may ask "compassion for who, and about what, and how?"

Everyone about everything.

What is really in the patient's best interest? The answer to this question in this example is influenced to some extent by the world view of the doctor.

I think the extent to which the treatment depends on the the doctors "worldview"(and we're talking about a the effects of beliefs here), is inversely proportional to the quality of the doctor, Rick.

It may seem reasonable and compassionate to decide as a professional, just give someone a placebo. On the other hand, this may encourage the hypochondria, and cause it to worsen. I, myself, don't know the best course of action, but I know I wouldn't base it on my worldview. "Best practices", scientifically determined, should govern treatment, not the "worldview" of the "professional". Sure, everyone one has biases, but a "professional" tries to reduce this influence on their decisions to the extent possible. You're a psychologist, so you know this.

"It's not correct to say there's nothing wrong with a hypochondriac...There IS something wrong, but it's a disorder of thought, not of the body...disorders of thought are neither imaginary nor untreatable."
Dr. Brian Fallon
Columbia University

If the treatment of the patient is not based on a firm grounding in the best understanding of the most effective treatment for a given problem, but rather on the doctor's "worldview", then I would say the patient's treatment suffers. I am not an expert on Hypochondria, but in your example, I can see that either direction you have proposed has costs and benefits. It takes data and understanding of that data, to make the best decisions. These decisions should not be based on "worldview".

...what they tended to agree upon back then was that the primary purpose of sex was procreation. A simple dispassionate look at nature of all the species shows that sex is for procreation.

That may be what a simple look tells someone, but life is more complex than that. Sex, is certainly the manner in which we reproduce, but how vacuous would life be if that was it's only purpose. Sex like other forms of human contact, is much richer. Humanity's closest living relatives, Bonobos, are a clear example of the complexity of sex. They use sex in every aspect of social life, to play, to console, to demean, to befriend, to capitulate, and yes, to procreate. If you claim that sex is viewed to have more purposes now than in the past, fine, but if so, it's due to our greater understanding of it. The nature of sex itself has not changed.

Today, psychiatry is divided on the question of the normalcy of homosexual identification and whether it is treatable.

There may be discussion regarding whether or not certain modalities can elicit certain effects, sure. Whether or not this is desirable or not is a different question. If someone is content with being whoever they are, then who is anyone to try to force them to change?

One factor that has changed since then is that most professionals no longer believe that the primary purpose of sex is procreation.

What? That's ludicrous. Try reproducing without sex(fertility labs notwithstanding). Sure it serves other purposes as i've said, but none of those things are quite as necessary as reproduction to survive as a species.

Birth control, sterilization, abortion, and most recently, sex reassignment, are all lucrative businesses (not to mention pornography).

I'm not sure what the point of this non-sequitir is, other than to illustrate your disapproval of these particular things. Any successful business better be lucrative (profitable) if it is going to be successful. I think you're on shakey ground if you are trying to portray these things as more profitable than most other businesses, and if you are not, what's your point? If I only cared about money, to the exclusion of all else, I doubt I'd choose the "lucrative" condom production business. I'm sure I could identify many other ventures would be much more profitable. Some of these things are even done pro-bono, and/or by non-profits. Perhaps you can provide comparative profitability data to back up your assertion?

Scientific discovery did not drive this shift in attitude or world view, social pressure and money did.

Certainly not money, as I've said. As for social pressure, well sure, but this does come from our increasing knowledge of reality. This knowledge most certainly does come from science. We have discovered the mechanisms behind the developement of our bodies and minds, to a much greater extent than ever before. As a consequence, we no longer believe that schizophrenics, psychopaths, and epileptics are possessed by the devil, or that homosexuals or transgendered people are deviants. Now we understand that these things ultimately have biological explanations, and where they don't harm others, are perfectly respectable.

So you see, religion and the Bible don't shape the compassionate response as much as they used to.

Yes, I know. This is a great step forward. Making decisions based on false premises, will always be worse than informed decisions.

So my question is, is today's non-religious doctor more compassionate than yesterday's bible thumper?

Yes. Clearly. Unequivically. Without hesitation. Yes.

That's not to say that EVERY doctor today, is better than EVERY doctor of the past, of course not, and non-religiosity does not automatically cause compassion, but the further back you go, the less effective doctors were. This fact was due in great degree to the lack of knowledge of the practitioner. This lack of knowledge was supplanted by conjecture in the form of belief. As we have progressed, these conjectures have given way to knowledge, which, as evidenced by our progress, is quite a bit more effective.

Terry Nelson said...

Excellent post - a very well thought out, intelligent response to Michael Bayly.

Mrs Jackie Parkes MJ said...

An important post...& you raise disturbing issues..

rick said...

mike, I hope that CourageMan does not object to the length of my response to you. There's a lot to discuss which unfortunately i don't have the time to respond to each of your points in detail. It is not for lack of interest on my part and it is evident to me that you are insightful and sincere in your statements.

Just some points of clarification of my earlier statements, which also carry some replies to your concerns:

A) " It seemed to me you were implying that hermaphrodites as a group had a male identification, but no matter." The male identification results from the fact that the genitals of most hermaphrodites are similar to male genitals, thus parents naturally think the child is a baby boy and treat the child as they would any other normal baby boy. Since sexual identity is to some extent influenced by upbringing, the sexual identification of the child takes form by the social conditioning within the family, and since the family thinks the child is a boy, the conditioning bias is in the direction of being male. As the child moves into adolescence, the secondary sexual features of the breasts now begin to manifest themselves, and at this point, the sexual identification sometime comes into question.

B) Compassion is an emotion in the potential caregiver. As a matter of definition, it is not defined by the efficiency or efficacy of the caregivers skill. I think the connection between compassion and effectiveness is an empirical question; that is, if you put compassion and effectiveness (efficacy) onto a 2 x 2 contingency table, i suspect that one could attempt to determine a correlation between the two attributes. It is certainly the case today that in medicine there is a lot more efficacy, than in the past, but it's not clear to me that there is a strong correlation between the efficacy of the doctor and his compassion. For example, there are effective doctors who are not particularly compassionate, and there are compassionate doctors who are not particularly effective, although even a poor doctor today is a lot more effective than a good doctor in past eras. The fact that money is a big motive for most doctors today does not make them less effective, but it probably influences their compassion--i say probably only because this is consistent with my experience, i can't say that I have any polling data to support it.

However, the whole efficacy issue in psychotherapy is much more complicated. The efficacy of modern psychotherapeutic intervention is very much in doubt. I must parse this statement to avoid any misunderstanding. (a) Some segments of applied psychology are HIGHLY effective; one of the clearest illustrations is found in applied behavioral analysis, with severely retarded persons. The results are very impressive. Cognitive behavior therapy for persons with anxiety disorders have been quite effective also. (b) But most psychology practice falls into the "talking" therapies other than these two areas, and here the issue is really muddy. I can highly recommend a book on the question of efficacy, by one of the best clinical psychology researchers of the past 50 years, Robyn Dawes: the book "House of Cards" Free Press, 1996. In a nutshell, Dawes shows that looking across the entire professional psychology landscape, specific training and licensing requirements in psychotherapy have no empirical relationship to effectiveness as a clinician. He has all the numbers. I dont know where the research is today on the efficacy question, but my experience as a psychologist is completely consistent with Dawes' findings of ten years ago. (c) I would add, however, that in my experience most mental health professionals are a more compassionate lot than most physicians, but even so, psychologists are not as a group uniquely effective because of their training. (d) Research does shows that compassion itself does seem to be have a therapeutic effect in psychotherapy, and that untrained people who are compassionate are show that same variation and average effective as the trained psychotherapists.

C) Mike, you state that: "Best practices", scientifically determined, should govern treatment, not the "worldview" of the "professional". As I said before, in most cases in medicine this is true. With hypochondriacs the case is more complicated. But the topic question addresses sexual behavior/identity issues. In these instances, within the counselling/psychotherapy business, some "best practices" are driven almost completely by a world view that runs against the grain of traditional Christian teaching; they are not guided by scientific evidence. The Amer Counc Assoc, and the Amer Psych Assoc recent "best practices" condemnation of "Reparative Therapy" are completely driven by the world view of the organizations' directors. Over the last 30 years there has been an effort to suppress research on sexual re-orientation therapies because of objections to such research by gay advocacy groups. The Amer. Counc. Assoc just recently issued a directive to its membership to REFUSE all requests from prospective patients for sexual orientation change. There seems to be little compassion in the ACA directive--where is the compassion for the homosexual who sincerely wants to change his orientation? The ACA directive countermands any type of reorientation therapy--not because there is clear proof that attempting such is harmful to the motivated patient, but because the ACA happens to affirm homosexual behavior. Their claims that Reparative Therapy is harmful are completely bogus. This type of attack on a therapeutic approach is unprecedented.

D) One's world-view or religion enter into the compassion factor noted above; the research on psychotherapy is beginning to show that religion affects therapeutic outcome. The influence of therapist religion is generally positive for patients with religious views commensurate with the therapist beliefs.

E) In regards to those psychotherapy cases involving evolving beliefs about sexual normalcy, the clinician's world view has an influence in how he addresses the problem. Conservative Christian psychotherapists will almost always look at sexual behavior outside of marriage as a contributing factor to the emotional distress. The secular psychologists tend to be more lenient on the sexual issues with their patients. In regards to homosexuals who present for treatment, the respective dispositions of the therapists are the same as with other sexual problems. Although for many years the secularist psychotherapists accused the Christians of moral bias and impeding the therapeutic process with Christian prejudice against extra-marital sex or homosexual sex, over the last 20 years it turns out that high-quality random sample govt-funded research has shown that sex outside of marriage correlates positively with emotional distress with all younger people; random sample surveys that correlate sexual behavior and mental health indicate a strong positive relationship between sexual restraint and mental health. This association is especially pronounced in males 18-35. In teenagers, sexual activity correlates with the affective disorders and suicide attempt. There are no "best practices" directives in this area, but if there were, they would probably seek to encourage the unmarried patient to refrain from all sexual activity. Which is what the conservative Christian psychotherapists have been saying all along, and which even more secular therapists were inclined to believe some 50 years ago. And yet, govt funded AIDS education hardly has a word to say about abstinence and mental health.

F) You say that: "If someone is content with being whoever they are, then who is anyone to try to force them to change?"

I suspect that this is at the core of your concerns. Within certain boundaries this is a very reasonable attitude. Indeed, it's quite difficult to force an adult to do something against his will--authoritarianism is a great evil, as history has demonstrated. Conversions can never be forced, they must be desired. I for one wouldn't be foolish enough to try to force a belief on anyone. Nevertheless, people don't come to a psychologist because they are content. In about 20% of my cases my task is to determine what is at the core of the discontent or unhappiness. Along the way I must make a judgment about what is natural to the human condition and mere contentment is not for me a sufficient condition for determining what is natural. My experience has been that persons in psychotherapy where extramarital sex is a feature of their behavior they usually have a distorted understanding of intimacy and friendship. I am always careful to tell them what I believe and that the belief does not conform to the views of many fellow psychotherapists who view moral proscriptions on sexual behavior as purely dogmatic, nevertheless, my view is that these secular biases show that they do not understand how sexual restraint affects friendship. I believe the research data support this view, but because of the biases within the discipline, there will, in my lifetime, never be any “best practices” on sexual behavior that conform to the research.

Catherine Nolan said...

Interesting post, and very interesting comments, Rick!

Anonymous said...

Here is the story of this particular family:

Here is a story explaining some basics of transgenderism:

eulogos said...

What nobody seems to have commented on is why on earth this Michael Bayly is executive coordinator of the Catholic anything. He obviously doesn't accept the teachings of the Church, which means that he doesn't believe it is the Church. The only kind of pastoral care he could offer is that which the wolf offers to the sheep.

Well, you did comment, using the words "scandalous counterwitness." But who is allowing his scandalous counterwitness to continue?

Anathema sit.
Susan Peterson