Psychological Testing

In theory, every applicant for the Catholic Priesthood should undergo psychological screening before getting anywhere near a seminary. But my diocese, although hit directly by clerical sex abuse scandals, didn’t put me in for testing before I arrived. This bothered me, so I asked the Rector to arrange testing. My reason was that due process be seen to be done in my case. His reason for consenting was to get to the root of the mysterious ‘being’ issue that hadn’t yet been resolved.

So 18 months into seminary, I filled in a 500-question form (the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, Version 2) and spent a day with a clinical psychologist and his team. The psychologist seemed to want to make me angry: we reached the topic of sexual self-stimulation and he kept suggesting that it was OK in some circumstances. I kept insisting that the Church clearly taught that it wasn’t. After we had argued back and forth for several rounds, he said: “This is the point where you are expected to say: ‘You’re right and I’m wrong, Dr X.'”

‘But I know the teaching of the church and you are not right, Dr X,’ I replied, in sorrow, not in anger.

When the results came back, they were rather worrying. The computer analysis of the MMPI-2 judged that ‘the candidate has claimed to be so virtuous, he is clearly lying’. But we Aspies are intrinsically virtuous, we tend to follow our principles even when it takes effort to do so – and if there is a down side, we don’t see it as such. We are also pathologically honest in answering questions which others might self-censor. It seems to me there is a need for tests like the MMPI-2 to be normed against a known batch of autistic subjects – it might be detailed enough to identify Aspies as well as liars.

The Clinical Psychologist reported that I was ‘manifestly unfit for pastoral work’. This was a problem, as I was about to spend a month on a school-focussed parish placement. As a result, I was not permitted to go on the placement, but spent a year working with a counsellor external to the seminary who then passed me ‘fit for pastoral work’ but without getting to the root of my problems.

So in the first three years of seminary, none of the in-house counsellors, the MMPI-2, the expert assessors or the external counsellor identified me as autistic. Along the way I was accused several times of lying when I was telling the honest truth about deeply personal things, as well as being challenged to address this mysterious ‘problem with my being’.

Unsurprisingly, once I got my diagnosis, I went through a phase of feeling very angry that none of these psychological professionals had identified what was at the root of my situation. But thanks be to God who found a way for me to reach the right answer by other means!

Postscript: I am glad to see that there is now published research about the MMPI-2 test as it applies to Aspies.

4 thoughts on “Psychological Testing”

  1. I am also autistic (and used to want to be a priest-now I have 5 kids!). I have failed the MMPI2 on three occasions for “being a liar”. When I ask, what does that mean? They say “It means you are a liar and wasting both of our time!” But I never lied! I even spent time in jail over the MMPI2.

    “‘the candidate has claimed to be so virtuous, he is clearly lying’. But we Aspies are intrinsically virtuous, we tend to follow our principles even when it takes effort to do so – and if there is a down side, we don’t see it as such. We are also pathologically honest in answering questions which others might self-censor. It seems to me there is a need for tests like the MMPI-2 to be normed against a known batch of autistic subjects”

    I feel like crying that there is someone else out there that understands how I think. I would like to know more about your story. I will check your blog. Thank you for this, it is helping us. God bless!

    Like

  2. Autistic, Franciscan, and in seminary:
    From your experience in seminary and on assignment, what do you think the formation needs of an aspie are as distinct from an NT?

    I was diagnosed young, and had lots of early intervention, so my Austism/Aspergers is less pronounced, but still there in several ways. Particularly with self-ordering, seeing the big picture, and attention issues.

    I also had a run-in with the MMPI, and had to do a number of sessions with a psychologist — luckly, he is not only solid, but rather holy as well. When it came to certian issues, we had to move from specifics to come to a general picture, which he said is 180° different from how that process really works (i.e., drilling down past surface impressions).

    Anyways, if you have any thoughts on the question above, I would appreciate it!

    Ave Maria!

    Like

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