Maryland Center Treats Priests Accused of Molesting Children

By Jo-Ann Moriarty
Cleveland Plain Dealer [Silver Spring MD]
March 14, 2004

Silver Spring, Md.- When former Springfield, Mass., Bishop Thomas Dupre was admitted to the Saint Luke Institute here, he joined a list of clergy who became patients after they were accused of sexually abusing minors.

While Dupre's course of treatment has not been revealed, the facility has been best known in recent years for treating priests who prey on children. They included defrocked Boston priest John Geoghan, who was murdered in his Massachusetts prison cell last August by another inmate. Geoghan was accused of molesting more than 130 children.

The facility, behind brick walls, is set on a 43-acre campus along the Washington, D.C.- Maryland line. It has tennis and basketball courts but is no retreat for wayward priests, says its director. "Part of what we do here is to help them get on with their lives, face the past honestly," said the Rev. Stephen Rossetti, the institute's chief executive officer. "You can't move on to the future unless you face the past. This is not summer camp."

Dupre, 70, has yet to face allegations that he sexually abused two boys, 12 and 13, more than 20 years ago. When confronted Feb. 10 by a reporter from Springfield's newspaper, The Republican, who had interviewed the mother of an alleged victim, Dupre announced his immediate retirement and disappeared from public view overnight. Two men several days later gave detailed accounts of the alleged abuse.

Dupre's admission to the institute brought new attention to Saint Luke. In addition to treating deviant sexual desires, the institute treats a range of mental and addictive disorders.

The Saint Luke facility is both unassuming and secure. At the foot of a long driveway, a sign warns visitors that the property is private.

The Republican, in seeking to interview Dupre last week, saw him inside the facility, but insti tute staff would not con firm it was he.

For two decades, the Saint Luke Institute has been where the Catholic Church sends members of the clergy when they are in trouble or need help. Rossetti puts them through a rigorous program aimed at helping them see their addictions and redirect their paths so they will not repeat abusive behaviors.

Since 1985, the facility has treated 325 priests who molested minors, Rossetti said. Less than 5 percent repeated the behavior after completing treatment, he said.

"Though we have clinical proof that treatment can be successful, we would never counsel anyone who has molested minors to work with minors again," Rossetti said. "After you've crossed that border, you lose your license to work with them again."

Rossetti is plainspoken about his work and the priests with whom he works.

"It is a tough program," Rossetti said. "You face the past and now is the time to live a safe, chaste and healthy life, and most of our guys do that."

The rehabilitation center addresses a wide range of psychological problems, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse and "professional boundary violations and other difficulties."

The institute is independently owned, but most of its revenues are generated by providing psychological services to priests and religious women. Their treatment is financed by the Catholic Church.

While Rossetti believes treatment can be successful, not everyone agrees.

Jim Hopper, a psychologist at McClean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., and Harvard Medical School who is an expert on child abuse, said the sexual abuse of a child is the behavior of a "compulsively addicted" adult.

Of priests who abuse, Hopper said, "Often these are guys who were conflicted about their sexuality and went to the church to avoid dealing and the church really didn't help them. They were sexual beings."

Priests treated at Saint Luke who wound up in the news again include:

Geoghan, who was imprisoned after being convicted of molesting a 10-year-old child. He was evaluated twice by the Saint Luke Institute, in 1989 and 1995.

Paul J. Mahan, a defrocked Boston priest, received an evaluation at the institute in 1993. He was treated in Canada and, according to published reports, is now accused of molesting a young nephew between 1993 and 1995.

Andrew Millar, a New York priest, was treated at Saint Luke in 1999 after being accused of sexually abusing a 10-year-old altar boy. He retired after completing treatment and was allowed to celebrate Mass in a church where parishioners were unaware of the charges.

In 2000, he was arrested and charged with sodomizing a learning-disabled teenage boy in a public restroom, according to published reports.

David Finkelhor, a professor of sociology at New Hampshire University who has written articles about the sexual abuse of minors, said he believes that Rossetti is "very thoughtful, very responsible" but that "some of the failures in the system that the Catholic Church used were a failure of after-care."

"The key element was making sure people who have gotten into treatment weren't placed into a situation where they were tempted," Finkelhor said.

"Somebody needs to be not just treated but to make sure those in their environment know about their history."


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