Last Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court flatly rejected the psychological theory of "repressed memory" as bogus. The Court declared that scientific studies that have tried to prove the bogus theory have "lacked foundational reliability."
Church-suing lawyers and accusers of abuse have attempted to use "repressed memory" as a way to circumvent statutes of limitations in order to file big-money lawsuits against the Catholic Church.
According to proponents of the discredited belief, some people completely forget instances of extreme trauma or abuse. Then, years or decades later, an event or thought – often directed by a convincing therapist – causes one to suddenly "remember" having been abused or traumatized.
In the case in Minnesota, an accuser – represented by high-profile, Church-suing attorney Jeff Anderson – tried to claim that his case of abuse against a Catholic priest should not be limited by the state's statute of limitations because he was simply unable to remember being abused because he "repressed" the memory of it happening. Fortunately, the Minnesota courts didn't buy it.
The theory of "repressed memory" is bizarre, indeed. The world's leading experts in memory have roundly debunked the wild theory.
- Dr. Richard J. McNally, Professor and Director of Clinical Training, Department of Psychology, Harvard University: "The notion that traumatic events can be repressed and later recovered is the most pernicious bit of folklore ever to infect psychology and psychiatry. It has provided the theoretical basis for 'recovered memory therapy' – the worst catastrophe to befall the mental health field since the lobotomy era."
- Dr. James McGaugh, University of California, Irvine: "I go on science, not fads. And there's absolutely no proof that it can happen. Zero. None. Niente. Nada. All my research says that strong emotional experiences leave emotionally strong memories. Being sexually molested would certainly qualify."
- Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, Professor of Psychology, University of California, Irvine: "You can't be raped for 10 years and not remember it. Yet, according to the repression aficionados, anything's possible."
- Dr. Paul McHugh, Chairman of the Psychiatry Department, Johns Hopkins University: "If penis envy made us look dumb, this will make us look totally gullible."
Yet one would hardly know from the media coverage over the past several years that "repressed memory" has been completely debunked and discredited. Journalists are reluctant to inform readers of any facts which would detract from the sensationalism of charges of sex abuse in the Catholic Church. When reporting on "repressed memory" cases against Catholic priests, journalists almost universally neglect to convey that the theory is scientific nonsense.
Once again, when the facts do not fit the accepted media narrative, the facts are ignored. Kudos to the Minnesota Supreme Court, however, for telling the story that the media will not.