Pope on Plane Pronounces Pedophilia an Illness

During his flight from Rome for a state visit to Great Britain on September 16, Pope Benedict XVI told reporters on board the plane that paedophilia was an “illness” whose sufferers had lost their free will. Psychologists and psychiatrists would agree (about the illness part — free will is a philosophical not a medical concept).

As regular readers of our reports know, psychiatric diseases are diagnosed using criteria from either the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DMS-IV-TR) or the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) from the World Health Organization.

Here’s the ICD-10 criteria for diagnosis:

F65 DISORDERS OF SEXUAL PREFERENCE
G1. Recurrent intense sexual urges and fantasies involving unusual objects or activities.
G2. Acts on the urges or is markedly distressed by them.
G3. The preference has been present for at least six months.

(Disorders of sexual preference include: fetishism, exhibitionism, voyeurism, paedophilia, sadomasochism, among others.)

F65.4 Paedophilia
A. The general criteria for F65 Disorders of sexual preference must be met.
B. A persistent or a predominant preference for sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children.
C. The person is at least 16 years old and at least five years older than the child or children in B.

The DSM-IV-TR criteria from the American Psychiatric Association are similar:

A. Over a period of at least 6 months, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children (generally age 13 years or younger).
B. The person has acted on these sexual urges, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty.
C. The person is at least age 16 years and at least 5 years older than the child or children in Criterion A.

The DSM was firt published in 1951 (DSM-I) and is updated about every 15 years. The current edition, DSM-IV-TR, was published in 1994 and the fifth edition, DSM-5 is due for release in 2012. Members of the mental health profession proposed new or revised diseases and diagnostic criteria for each new edition.

For DSM-5, Dr. Ray Blanchard and colleagues at the University of Toronto has proposed changing the name of the disease from pedophilia (paedophilia) to Pedohebephilic Disorder because of clinical evidence that there are really three types of patient: those that are attracted to prepubescent children younger than 11 (Pedophilic Type), those attracted to children ages 11-14 (Hebephilic Type), or those sexually attracted to both ages.

See here for more information.

Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

1 Comment

  1. Molly

    September 18, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    While I agree with the classification of it as a mental illness, I don’t agree that it means that people have “lost their free will.” I hope that there will be strides made in researching the causes and possible treatments, because no one WANTS to be that way, but if you act on it, you deserve to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and thrown in jail.

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