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Hallo again to all.

Issues of clergy abuse have frequently been in the news of late. Though the most prominent attention has rightly been on abuses of a sexual nature, both spiritual and psychological abuses are becoming more acknowledged of late. According to a piece in the Telegraph from earlier this week, in the book Let Us Prey: The plague of narcissist pastors and what we can do about it ' North American researchers R. Glenn Ball and Darrell Puls concluded that more than 30 per cent of ministers in a mainstream Protestant church in Canada met the criteria for a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder(NPD).'

The Mayo Clinic, a US-based non-profit academic medical center, describes Narcissistic Personality Disorder as 'a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that's vulnerable to the slightest criticism'.

The prominence of possible narcissists in civic life across the globe has brought this disorder to the forefront, giving many an explanation for traits in some of the difficult people with whom they have interacted in daily life. The popular online community Reddit has a subforum dedicated to coping with such people called 'Raised by Narcissists', which has over 270,000 subscribers and thousands of active participants daily.

The Church Times covered this issue earlier this year in a 23 February article. The detailed article provides an overview of NPD and its current place in the church as well as a listing of several books for those dealing with others with NPD. We highly recommend it to those employed both within the church and without.

According to the above Telegraph piece, however, the Church of England is looking to join with several other provinces in requiring psychometric tests for NPD* for its trainee priests within the next year. The article details how narcissists are often drawn to the clergy due to both the attention the position draws and authority over others it provides. Indeed when looking at the the shepherd or pastoral imagery of a cleric, we can see how there can be room for such abuses. With the negative sentiment and decline the church already faces in much of the world, the church can hardly afford such toxic personalities to be leading its congregations, but unless tested by a professional, narcissism can initially come across as healthy confidence and solid leadership skills.

The casual daily use of the term 'narcissist' or 'narcissism' rarely conveys the damage that the disorder can cause people to inflict. Without a well-developed regard for others having the same emotions, feelings, and desires, those with NPD can casually inflict immense pain to one person while being tremendously generous to another.

We hope that those who have been damaged by narcissistic clergy or family members don't feel shame for their experience and rather feel open to find psychotherapy or spiritual direction to move forward. Much of the ordination process in many dioceses and provinces involves telling one's own story many, many times. This can also, inadvertently, put those with NPD at an advantage. We hope that the Church of England moves forward with this possibility and that the numbers who have left the church due to toxic leadership declines.

See you next week.

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15 July 2018

*Some CofE dioceses offer personality indicators such as the Myers Briggs test, which categorises people based on four criteria, and an Enneagram, which involves nine personality types. Other provinces require full psychological evaluations.

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