Philia

    May 2000

    Dutch Clergy Write Booklet on Pastoral Approaches to Pedophilia
    By Heather Elizabeth Peterson
    Philia

    Misunderstood Intimacy: A Pastoral Approach to Pedophilia is the title of a new collection of essays published by a coalition of Protestant social agencies in the Netherlands.

    The booklet is edited by the Rev. Hans Visser and the Rev. Donald H. Mader, the senior and assistant pastors of Pauluskerk (St. Paul's Church) in Rotterdam, which runs a ministry to pedophiles. Rev. Visser is also director of the booklet's publisher, Stichting voor Kerkelijk Sociale Arbeid (KSA), founded in 1947 as an interdenominational foundation of Protestant social agencies.

    Rev. Mader said that the idea for the booklet arose as the result of requests for information that Pauluskerk was receiving from imprisoned minor-attracted adults in the U.S. The prisoners had read a speech by Rev. Visser which originally was posted without Pauluskerk's knowledge at a girl-love site, and later was apparently reprinted in a print publication.

    Says Rev. Mader, "What was striking in the letters from the [prisoners] was the sense of relief, surprise and joy they expressed, that someone whom they saw and valued as an authority (indeed continued to see as an authority, despite the rest of the church's treatment of them) a clergyman was saying (even if not directly to them) that they were not monsters, or sick, or detestable sinners because of their sexuality alone. I think it was a sense of the pastoral need to respond to them and others like them much more than satisfying requests for information that persuaded us to go to the effort of putting out the booklet."

    The booklet draws upon both secular and Christian material to encourage what the booklet calls "a more nuanced social and legal approach" to pedophilia, as well as offering suggestions for pastoral counselling of pedophiles.

    "The intended audience when collected, as the introduction suggests, are interested members of the general public and I think we should be clear that this almost certainly means self-identified pedophiles or those wrestling with the question of whether that is their sexual orientation," says Rev. Mader.

    He adds that Rev. Visser's speech has already generated interest among non-pedophiles: "I do know that it has since been used as a discussion document in a political group opposing repressive sex laws in Massachusetts a public use which we had not intended, but given the origins of some of the documents is not unexpected and a Christian counselor who is working with alternative therapy for pedophiles has suggested it as a document for use with his patients."

    The booklet, which is available free to prisoners and for a small fee to others, include Rev. Visser's notes on his ministry work with pedophiles, as well as a sermon by Rev. Mader on the implications for pedophiles of St. Paul's statement that "there is neither Jews nor Greek" among Christians.

    One chapter of the booklet, written by the late Rev. Alje Klamer, is devoted to advice to pastors on how to counsel pedophiles. 

    "I hope that pastors, with all their questions and reservations, will reflect on the story in Mark 2:14ff, when someone, for instance a pedophile, comes to them," Rev. Klamer says. "Jesus comes up to the toll house where Levi, son of Alpheus, is sitting. Marie van der Zeyde, in her translation, tells us, 'And there, as he passed by his glance fell on Levi, son of Alpheus, as he was, sitting at his post in the toll house.' Jesus saw him enmeshed within his own story, like a spider in the midst of his web. Others might have said, look, there he is again, the tax collector, the bloodsucker. But Jesus saw him in the context of his whole story, and that enabled him to say to him too, follow me. It was as much as to say, 'That is your story, I am with you. I would let you know that you are not what others think of you, and not even what you think of yourself, but that you are an entirely different kind of person.'"

    Rev. Klamer adds, "It is precisely the pastor who is the one who must join such a person in searching for a way forward in society in which it is darned hard to live as a pedophile."

    Related Articles

    Philia Subject Index: Pauluskerk

    Related Links

    "One in Christ Jesus". By Donald H. Mader. Reprinted from Misunderstood Intimacy. [Unconditional Love

    Pastorate and Pedophilia. By Hans Visser. Reprinted in Misunderstood Intimacy. [Desire's Child-Love Pages]

    Pauluskerk (contact information)

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    © 2000 Heather Elizabeth Peterson
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