Straight Guy with the Catholic Eye: a Follow-up on St. Colman's

By Matt C. Abbott
Renew America [Watervliet NY]
May 15, 2004

The following are two e-mails I received regarding my column on St. Colman's Home for boys and girls, located in Watervliet, New York.

From "Jane Doe":

"In your May 12, 2004 article, you speak of St. Colman's Home for Children housing children with mental and emotional problems. While it is certainly true that St. Colman's housed children with problems it more frequently created problems with children it housed. Children were placed there by social service agencies in the capital region. My sister (adopted) was sent to St. Colman's with her many siblings after having been removed from their home for malnutrition and starvation which is neither a mental nor an emotional problem, albeit it can lead to such. Any emotional problems she endures stem from the abuse that she endured there and the emotional trauma of being separated from her siblings (the practice at St. Colman's was to house the children by age, not by family, and to refuse to let children see their siblings and to punish them if they attempted to see their siblings). I respectfully ask that you reconsider your wording in the article as it lends credence to the hateful statements made by Bishop Howard Hubbard when he dismissed the victims of St. Colman's claiming that they were dysfunctional children who grew up to be dysfunctional adults. Christianity is rooted in personal responsibility. We are all accountable for our sins and the taking of that responsibility is a mark that sets us apart from the world. Sadly, Hubbard seems disinterested in taking responsibility for the goings on at St. Colman's. His indifference would be tolerable; it is his insistence on denigrating the victims that is too heavy a load for many of them to bear."

From Bob:

First let me say that St. Colman's was not a home for mental and emotional kids; although I must tell you that so many of us came out of that institution in that kind of condition, and had to find our way in life, and be able to stand on our own. Many of us have made it in spite of the brutal beatings and rapes. I am one of the victims of St. Colman's, and know what it is to be raped and beaten to within an inch of my life. I believe that I have been sending you quite a few updates over the past few months. I am also the witness to the smothering death of Gilbert Bonneau in the infirmary of St. Colman's in 1953. I was the only other one in the infirmary when Gilbert was murdered. I just want to thank you for bringing attention to a few of the things that went on at St. Colman's, and hope that you will stay in touch with us.

In that same column, I used the title "Salt for their wounds" as an introduction to an article by Catholic activist Mary Ann Kreitzer. "Salt for their wounds" is actually the title of a 1997 article, written by Lesley Payne, on the subject of dubious Church-run "treatment centers" for priests. The article can be found here.

And I received the following e-mail from Joe, who was responding to Mary Ann's (related) article:

"I personally know of a young priest who was ordered to St. Luke [Institute, based in Maryland] three years ago for reasons having nothing to do with sex abuse. He described it as a 'freak show.' He had the entry evaluation as you described. While there he was hit on a number of times by homosexual priest, and observed anti-Catholic and pro-'gay' literature postings in open view. It was a humiliating and useless experience; and I'll never forgive the bishop and his two toady monsignors who sent him there."

And so it goes...

Matt C. Abbott is the former executive director of the Illinois Right to Life Committee and the former director of public affairs for the Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League. He is also a contributor to,,,,,,,,, "The Wanderer" Catholic newspaper,,,, and He can be reached at


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