Catholic forum part 4: Paul Goh’s presentation

Editor’s note: This is Gwo Yinn’s personal report of a talk presented by Father Paul Goh at a Catholic forum on homosexuality, held on 29 May 2008.

Source: Live today as if there’s no tomorrow – blog
30 May 2008

Fr Goh’s presentation is entitled Counselling and Psychotheraphy to Homosexuals.

He started by saying he’s not there to pass judgement on anyone. He said his presentation is based on his professional experience. He didn’t say whether it’s as a priest or as a clinical psychologist.

His first slide is on rapport and relationship building which requires empathy, genuinenness and positive regard, caring and acceptance. According to him, a person can be trained to be empathetic. Genuineness requires consistency between the words, feelings, expressions and gestures. In the case of a person whose parents do not show unconditional positive regards, the person shows psychological problems. I think he quoted a study by a Karl Roger on this.

His second slide is on barriers or resistance to counselling.

He talked about fear of rejection or judgement, lack of trust especially with a person with disorder (presumably the disorder of homosexuality) or false belief (probably the belief that homosexuality is ok), shame and guilt, denial (which he said is a common ego defense mechanism, a person deny he or she has a problem so as to feel comfortable with him or herself. See my explanation for his notion of false belief), or ego syntonic which he elaborated as a subjective feeling of comfort with one’s homosexual behaviour, i.e. the person does not feel the distress he should although his parents for example show objective concern. This is in contrast to ego dystonic where the person feels distress, which is a ‘better’ feeling as it’d move the person to seek help.

I think he also mentioned at this point of his presentation that there’re people who’re sick but refused to see a doctor because he or she doesn’t want to know what ails him/her.

This I feel is the most loaded of his slides. To use an analogy of Fr Garcia during the previous talk, it’s poison masquerading as coke. A homosexual who’s comfortable with his sexuality is someone who’s in denial or has a false belief or is suffering from ego syntonic. I believe he’s talking as a priest who believe homosexuality and/or homosexual acts is wrong, who believe homosexual should and could change into a heterosexual, who is probably feeling helpless and frustrated at the current climate of increasing tolerance and acceptance towards homosexuality, rather than the cool and detached clinical psychologist that he wanted to appear to be.

His next slide is on assessing client problems.

First would be intake or history interviews. He’d find out the background information about the client and family, (he specifically mentioned relationship with father and mother), education, work, medical history, current situation, etc.

As an aside, here he mentioned there’re two types of homosexuals i.e. overt homosexuals are those who will not act out due to education etc, and covert homosexuals who’d act out.

In the next breath, he said that he suspend judgement. The word suspend I think is telling.

In order to define the problems, he’d find out the components of the problem. This is assess by diagnostic psychological tests amongst which he mentioned the Roschard (Sp?) Ink Blot Test. He gave the impression that he uses the ink blot tests quite a lot. He described it as very sophisticated and very subtle. He’d assess the client’s feelings, cognition, self-perception, behaviours (probably to see whether the guy is a ‘covert’ or ‘overt’ homosexual), physical complaints, interpersonal aspects, and concommitent disorders.

He’d explore pattern of contributing events i.e. significant event which trigger homosexuality in the person for example exposure to porn (presumably gay porn. He didn’t say whether a man expose to lesbian porn would turn into a lesbian) or make friends who have similar problems. (Peer pressure? Breathing the same air?)

He’d check on the client’s coping skills, ego defense mechanism and strengths and resources.

His next slide was a list of problems. It’s headed by his all time favourite, gender identity disorders, followed by mood disorders, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, personality disorders (there’re 11 of these and apparently his homosexual clients or all homosexuals suffer from every one of the 11!)

He talked about people who will not accept these as his problems, but are rigid and insist that others must change. These people use intellectual thinking (or discourse?) to cover up these failures and weakness. I suspect here he’s talking about apparently well-adjusted homosexuals asking for repeal of S377A, or homosexuals in the audience asking what’s wrong with homosexuality. I remember thinking at this point that he’s surprisingly unpriestlike.

The next slide is on goal setting. This is in order to obtain insight of one’s dynamics of family and personality, to self- regulate one’s negative emotion, to learn a healthy way of controlling one’s impulses (especially sexual impulses), deal with ego-defense mechanisms e g denial and learn healthy ego-defense eg altruism, sublimation, and to change narcissism which is supposedly a maladaptive characteristic.

Next, he talked about strategies and therapeutic approaches. These must aim at therapeutic goal and be within the competency of the counselor or therapist. He said that he integrated psychological means with spiritual means, such as meditation for healing and forgiveness (forgiveness of oneself and others), spiritual direction (I’m not sure here whether he meant directions from a spirit guide or directions where you want to go spiritually), retreat of prayers, and application of sacrament. He uses hypnosis which is effective if the person is not resistant. (The disclaimer I thought is particularly brilliant. If he manage his client is ‘cured’ through hypnosis, it’s cure. If the client is not ‘cured’, it’s because the client is resistant.) He talked about using exocism. Spiritual means he said really help people who really has faith. (I’m repeating myself, but what the heck! If his client is ‘cured’ by whatever spiritual means he used, the cure works. If the client is not ‘cured’, that’s because he has little faith. Gosh! I’m bitchy!)

He ended his presentation saying that after listening to his talk, he hope the audience can be empathetic and sympathetic towards people with SSA. I thought it was rather disingenuous of him to express that after all his innuendo and talk about maladaption and disorders.

***

If any proof is needed that the series of talk has managed to implant – if any implanting is required in the first place – that homosexuals are sick and not to be trusted, during the Q & A, the first question came from a woman who wanted to know if there’s any test to detect homosexuals, in case a homosexual enter into the church hierachy and harm the congregation.

Fr Goh gave a long rambling answer. He talked about symptoms of a homosexual such as strong need of affection and approval (I pity the child who expresses any need for affection and approval from a parent in the audience thereafter), emotional dependency and narcisism (perhaps the parents in the audience were thinking of banning mirrors from their house). Here he mentioned that covert homosexual has less severe problems than overt homosexuals, where what he meant was overt homosexuals, not having acted out their same sex attraction, would ’cause less problem’. It’s possible it’s just a slip of the tongue but it does give rise to the suspicion that he’s merely parroting some literature. He insisted again that he doesn’t make moral judgement. But in the next breath, he said that it’s the homosexual priests who caused the sexual abuse scandal in America.

In reply (sort of) to the question about the change in orientation, he again talked about overt homosexual and gender identity disorder. He mentioned the scenario where a man came out as gay after marriage and said that he’d run a psychological assessment to find out what’s wrong with him.

A young woman with short spiky hair and loose shirt and jeans asked whether a man with SSA is allowed to be a priest. He said that he’d run tests (presumably the very sophisticated and very subtle ink blot test) to see how severe is his problems. He might allow a covert homosexual in the seminary, but definitely not an overt homosexual.

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