Salt for Their Wounds
Too many troubled Catholic priests are being assigned to "treatment centers" where unlicensed psychologists encourage them to flout Church teaching. Worse, they are denied an opportunity for genuine help with their emotional problems.
By Leslie Payne
Andrew Walter did not fit in at St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland. His vocal defense of traditional theology and his complaints to his bishop about abuses at the seminary angered the faculty. In February of 1995, after 2 years at St. Mary's, he was sent for a 2-day psychological evaluation (because of his "behavior problems") to the New Life Center in Middleburg, Virginia, a treatment center for priests and religious operated by Dr. Thomas Drummond. Shortly afterward, Andrew was expelled from the seminary. He contacted other dioceses, inquiring about prospects for priestly ordination, but was rejected repeatedly without explanation.
Several months later, Andrew's friend Anthony, who had also been expelled from St. Mary's after a similar experience, told Andrew about his meeting with Philadelphia-area psychologist John Frauncis. Anthony had applied for entrance into the seminary of another diocese and had been referred to Dr. Frauncis for evaluation. With Dr. Frauncis' help, Andrew obtained a copy of Dr. Drummond's evaluation, discovering that the therapist had diagnosed him--based on two written personality tests and a 20-minute interview--with severe sexual deviancy. In the opinion of Dr. Frauncis, no such condition was reflected in the test data Drummond had collected; indeed the tests could not have justified such a diagnosis. In preparing for a lawsuit against Drummond and St. Mary's Seminary, Andrew made a surprising discovery: Drummond is not a licensed psychologist.
Having met Dr. Frauncis and his psychiatrist neighbor Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, Andrew and Anthony joined an informal network--small but rapidly growing--of priests and seminarians who say they have been subjected to a Church-run psychiatric gulag, usually operated by theological liberals, often by men who are openly and actively homosexuals.
Some of these men were sent to treatment facilities by their ecclesiastical superiors for evaluation of such "conditions" as doctrinal "rigidity," "compulsive" praying, and "homophobia," and returned with a diagnosis that they were "unfit for ministry." Others went willingly, hoping for help in their struggles against homosexual temptations, only to be told that their orientation is genetically determined, and that they should learn to be comfortable with themselves and discreet in their sexual practices. Some were sent away because of more serious problems (such as sexual offenses, alcoholism, or clinical depression), kept in treatment centers for a year or more, and denied effective treatment; evidently their bishops already decided that they should not return to ministry, regarding of their response to therapy.
Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, a Catholic psychiatrist in the Philadelphia area, treats many priests who seek him out after hearing about his faithfulness to Church teachings and his approach to treating homosexuality. As the number of priests among his clients grew, Fitzgibbons noticed a troubling pattern among those who had been treated in Church-run psychiatric facilities: loyal Catholic priests who had been sent to treatment centers for outpatient evaluations, or who had relatively mild problems (such as recurrent homosexual temptations which they had not yet acted upon), were kept in the centers for extended periods of time--six months or more--and pressured to request laicization. Yet, they reported, many heterodox priests who had committed more serious offenses were sent back to their parishes--sometimes after months of treatment, sometimes immediately.
Fitzgibbons' patients told him about clashes with therapists whom they described as openly homosexual, who urged them to "come out of the closet" and who claimed that the priests' opposition to the ordination of women was evidence of a personality disorder. They reported centers where trysts between homosexual patients were permitted or condoned, and where patients who supported Church teachings on sexuality were ridiculed in group-therapy sessions.
The St. Luke Institute
The priestly pedophilia crisis of the 1980s spawned numerous books and articles accusing various members of the hierarchy of covering up (or being involved with) child abuse and homosexual scandals. Facing enormous damage to the Church's moral credibility, not to mention multi-million-dollar lawsuits, the US bishops were understandably optimistic when priest-psychiatrist Michael Peterson began accepting pedophiles into his highly regarded St. Luke Institute, a treatment center for alcoholic priests outside Washington, DC. St. Luke's advertised a 12-step program similar to that used by Alcoholics Anonymous, incorporating Catholic theological principles.
Jason Berry outlined Father Peterson's rise and fall in his well-known 1992 book on the pedophilia crisis, Lead Us Not Into Temptation. Berry--who argued that enforced celibacy and what he saw as Church opposition to sexual pleasure were the causes of self-destructive sexual behavior among priests--used Peterson as his main protagonist, the sole voice of reason speaking out in opposition to a foolish hierarchy. (Halfway through the book's narrative, when Peterson dies of AIDS and it is revealed that he had been engaged in drug and alcohol abuse as well as promiscuous homosexual behavior, Berry begins to tone down his praise for the priest.) Berry noted Father Peterson's disagreements with Church teachings on sexuality, and pointed out that therapy at St. Luke's included affirmation of priests' homosexual orientation and questions as to whether deep-seated emotional problems led men to become priests in the first place.
Berry never raises the issue of what impact Peterson's emotional problems might have had on the therapy program at St. Luke's. But he perhaps unwittingly introduces questions about Peterson's fitness as a therapist when he reports that Peterson became "unnerved" and abruptly ended an interview when questioned about his upbringing and his mother's alcoholism.
Berry also provides excerpts of an April 5, 1988 letter of resignation from a doctor who had been serving on the St. Luke's staff: "I have become progressively uncomfortable with the moral tone of the Institute and its therapeutic programs. In my opinion, the Institute has been used as an outlet for the psycho-pathology of its founder and... for other members of the staff from its inception."
It is not clear how much the Institute catered to the inclinations of its leader. Berry quotes a former St. Luke's employee who complained that Peterson had purchased properties adjacent to his treatment center, at which patients, including pedophiles, could be housed. The former employee "grew suspicious that patients sent to the newly acquired houses 'had nothing to do with our mission; yet they could roam at will in a neighborhood with children.' He said that Peterson told neighbors the men were visiting bishops and superiors."
The theory according to St. Luke's
St. Luke Institute, which is now located in Silver Spring, Maryland, still enjoys a reputation as the country's foremost treatment center for priests and religious, used by dioceses throughout the world. Although St. Luke's is best known today for treating pedophile priests, the Institute treats all kinds of psychiatric and psychological disorders, from depression to severe psychoses. Priests engaging in open or promiscuous homosexual behavior are often sent to St. Luke's for help in gaining self-control.
After Father Peterson's death in 1987, and following a short series of internal power struggles, a new leadership team was assembled for St. Luke's. Father Canice Connors was appointed president in 1992, having previously been president of Southdown, a treatment center near Toronto. Father Stephen Rosetti, former director of education at the House of Affirmation (a Catholic program that was closed due to financial mismanagement), was hired in 1993 as director of New Programs. And in 1989 Curtis Bryant, who had just finished his internship in psychology in California, was brought on as Director of Inpatient Treatment, supervising all the staff therapists.
What approach does this team take? In his 1990 book on the sexual abuse of children within the Church, Slayers of the Soul , Father Rosetti allows Dr. Frank Valcour, who has been medical director at St. Luke's since Father Peterson's time, to discuss his program. Dr. Valcour believes that the causes of pedophilia include chromosomal abnormalities, congenital disturbances, hormonal imbalances, neuropsychological difficulties, and sexual "repression." Although he (like many other analysts) notes that someone who has been abused physically, emotionally, or sexually as a child might be disposed to pedophilia, he discounts such childhood experiences as actual causes of the problem. Another possible cause of compulsive sexual disorders, according to Dr. Valcour, is growing up in an "unmanageably large" family, which he classifies as a "childhood trauma."
Outlining his approach to treatment, Dr. Valcour states that insight-oriented psychoanalysis is "rather ineffective" in treating sexual behavior problems. He favors the use of Depo-Provera--a hormone which lowers a man's testosterone level and reduces his sexual interest and response--along with a 12-step program and behavior-modification techniques. He notes the importance of after-care and close monitoring of patients following their release.
In the introductory essay that opens his book, "The Myth of the Child Molester" (which was written before he came to St. Luke's), Father Rosetti suggests that most people have pedophiliac urges, but are able to repress them. He believes that most instances of pedophilia are never discovered, and this is especially true of the pedophiliac acts committed by women. Rosetti is particularly suspicious of mothers, explaining that it is "easier for a mother in our society to disguise inappropriate contact with youngsters as maternal acts of cleaning, grooming, and dressing."
Father Rosetti also stresses his belief that there is no connection between homosexuality and pedophilia. In his concluding essay, "Challenge to the People of God," he reiterates his theory that most people have some degree of sexual attraction to children. He quotes a 1976 study by the late psychologist Robert Stoller, which concluded that it is not possible to find "a line on the continuum of sexual behavior that could separate normal from perverse." He faults the Church for cultivating "a climate of repression and/or obsession," which he says leads to deviant sexual behavior.
Set your own norms
Father John was sent for a six-month stay at St. Luke's in 1994 after making an inappropriate sexual overture. He recognizes that he had a serious problem; St. Luke's, he says, did not. "They made it very clear to everyone from the beginning," says Father John, "that what was being treated at St. Luke's was compulsion and promiscuity, but definitely not homosexuality. It was very clear that the idea of a homosexual monogamous relationship would be a preferable thing." Father John charged: "If two priests in the house took a liking to one another sexually, nobody did anything about it.... It was not considered to be a problem."
Discussing the St. Luke's staff's acceptance of homosexuality, Father John said, "This means that my main problem was never diagnosed, since it is not even acknowledged to be a problem. Saint Luke's would consider it a success story if a man would leave the priesthood and enter into a monogamous homosexual union. I was even told by a therapist that it would be a wonderful experience for me the first time I had love made to me."
According to Father John, the therapists tried to convince him to consent to a penile plethysmography test, which is designed to determine a man's sexual preference. "One of the priests warned me that I would probably be asked to go for it," he said. "His advice to me was not to go. He himself had gone and found it to be degrading and demeaning. Apparently, a wire is attached to the penis and then you listen to various pornographic stories (they used to use photos and movies in the past). I told my bishop about it, and he agreed that the test is immoral."
Father John notes that, in the evenings, the patients would be taken to various 12-step programs in the city, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Overeaters Anonymous. "For sex addicts, if you went to a Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) meeting, that was pretty good, because SA advocates total sexual chastity," said Father John. He continues:
But there were other groups you were allowed to go to like SCA: Sexual Compulsives Anonymous. In that group, you decide what your bottom line is--whatever you think is overdoing it--and you establish that as your norm. That is certainly not a Catholic approach. One of the 12-step meetings was held in a gay-owned and operated club in the Dupont Circle area. It became like a cruising place for a lot of gays. And here are men from St. Luke Institute being put into that kind of situation. Courage--which is a faithful Catholic organization for homosexuals, and which has several meetings in Washington, DC--was never put up on the board as a meeting you could go to.
Not a Catholic atmosphere
According to Father John, the spirituality at St. Luke's was decidedly un-Catholic. "This is a glaring problem at St. Luke's," he argues, "since in my case as well as most of the other priests and religious, a breakdown in our prayer life went hand in hand with our problems and addictions."
"The idea of the priesthood and religious life being a permanent and life-long commitment is not accepted," says Father John. "They are reduced to occupations rather than vocations. They are not to be seen as part of 'who you are.'"
Father John noted that there were no spiritual directors at St. Luke's. During his stay Father Ken Phillips, was replaced as director of the pastoral-care program by Michael Fonseca, a married former Jesuit priest. He notes that, while he was at St. Luke's, the patients attended two days of recollection. The first was given by a young Jesuit priest from Georgetown who was "out of the closet" and angry with the Church for her "outdated" position on homosexuality. The second was given by a nun with an academic background as a Scripture scholar, who (he says) agreed with a question suggesting that Jesus might have been gay.
Father John was also disturbed by the fact that some therapists at St. Luke's encouraged their patients to attend Masses sponsored by the pro-homosexual group Dignity, which were celebrated at a local Episcopal church since the Catholic Church in Washington did not approve of Dignity. Many patients from St. Luke's did attend these illicit Masses, he recalls.
Father John notes that the woman who served as his therapist for the first several months of his stay had left St. Luke's, complaining about the ethical standards of the Institute. Later he ran into the therapist, and she informed him that his bishop had instructed St. Luke's to recommend that he should not return to ministry. He recalls:
That was one of her problems with the ethics of the place--that they were not honest with the priests about their future and that St. Luke's was in collusion with the dioceses. In my case there was some local publicity, and I suppose the diocese just decided from the beginning that, no matter how things went with me, they were not going to return me to the assignment, but they never told me that. My therapist knew that from the beginning, but was not allowed to tell me.
"Another angle--I'm always suspicious about this--is that I was always known as a traditional, conservative priest," says Father John. "It seems that with a conservative priest, once he's had any trouble, the bishop takes the opportunity to get rid of the guy, whereas if he is liberal, things turn out all right."
Father Pete was sent to St. Luke's in 1996 for evaluation after being accused of having hugged another man in an inappropriate manner many years earlier--a charge he denies. Father Pete underwent a one-week evaluation at St. Luke's (including strong pressure to undergo a penile plethysmography test, which he refused). Based on this evaluation, and without speaking to the accuser, St. Luke's recommended six months of treatment.
"This deviates from established standards of care in the mental health field," says Dr. Fitzgibbons. "Today, we wouldn't use prolonged hospitalization for any condition, unless the patient wasn't responding to medication. Church facilities are the only ones who do that. And with this priest, it was a case of an accusation, which he denied, with no clinical or behavioral evidence that he required psychiatric treatment."
Recalling his evaluation at St. Luke's, Father Pete related:
It was, for me, a very, very upsetting experience. I did not know much about the place prior to going, but I knew that if I resisted, I probably would have been suspended. It was a very exhausting week, filled with a lot of meetings with psychologists, writing reports about myself. I had to take several tests on a computer screen. They were not pleased with the results the first time and made me take them again over again.
When the report came from St. Luke's, recommending long-term treatment, my bishop threatened suspension if I didn't go along with the therapy. In March, I got in touch with Dr. Fitzgibbons through a priest friend. He did another evaluation and sent a report to the bishop. He told me he found no serious problems and that there was no need for hospitalization. In August, I was called into the bishop's office again, and they wanted to send me to the New Life Center in Middleburg, Virginia. The bishop had a priest-psychologist in the diocese write a report on me, recommending that I go to the New Life Center. But this psychologist never treated me, never spoke to me, had nothing to do with my case at all. This is a blatant violation of ethics in the mental health field--if you've never treated someone, you can't make a recommendation.
Father Pete believes that his bishop, too, contacted St. Luke's before he arrived, instructing the staff to recommend prolonged treatment and his removal from active priestly ministry. He points out that the man who originally charged him with making an unwanted advance subsequently dropped the charge--which in any case involved a hug rather than any genital contact. He believes he was being "railroaded" because of his traditional views on sexual morality and other theological issues.
"a godless place"
Father Roger was sent across country to St. Luke Institute for several months in 1992 because his superiors suspected a "personality disorder." They complained that he was too rigid, worked too much, and "seemed like a compulsive person."
According to Father Roger, it was his impression that St. Luke's is effective in treating seriously mentally ill persons--medicating psychotic patients and using hormone therapy to reduce pedophiles' sexual impulses. However, he suggested that many patients had apparently been sent there because they were "politically incorrect." On the other hand he insists that one priest he met at St. Luke's, an active homosexual sent for treatment by his conservative bishop, announced that he was happy to be gay and that his bishop should not be "the bedroom police." Says Father Roger: "St. Luke's released him as okay, because he felt comfortable with who he was."
Father Roger also complained about the lack of Catholic spirituality at St. Luke's. He noted that clerical clothes were never worn, and that Mass was not often celebrated. When a Mass was scheduled, he reports, "everybody 'concelebrated,' including the women." Characterizing the spirituality of St. Luke's, he said: "You'd better never say anything is a sin or something is against God's will when you're at St. Luke's. Never talk about God in relation to your life. It's a godless place--except in the spirituality class you take just before you get out, where you go talk about how much you hate God and how he made you do bad things."
Father Roger did credit St. Luke's with establishing a positive atmosphere in one respect: priests there talked with each other openly about their personal struggles. "You would never find that in any rectory or seminary in any diocese," he notes.
The most remarkable charges lodged against the staff of St. Luke's involve Curtis Bryant, who was brought in in 1989 to supervise the Institute's therapists. Several therapists reportedly complained the Father Canice Connors, the president of the Institute, about Bryant's erratic behavior, which was apparently connected with an alcohol problem. But Father Connors did not respond.
Bryant was appointed to his supervisory post at St. Luke's with remarkably little experience, having only completed his internship in psychology. For the first 19 months of his tenure as Inpatient Clinical Director, Bryant remains unlicensed; he obtained a Maryland license on May 26, 1991, having been hired in September of 1989.
Therapists who worked with Bryan during his years at St. Luke's charge that he abused his authority, harassed the therapists he supervised, and displayed unprofessional behavior. One female therapist, who left St. Luke's after a series of complaints were ignored, says, "In some ways, the staff is more dysfunctional than the patients." She states that, because of "improper behavior," by administrators, especially Bryant and Father Connors, "therapists were leaving in droves."
Former St. Luke's therapists confirm that complaints were lodged against Bryant--with the Institute, with the state of Maryland and with the American Psychological Association. One complaint filed with the American Psychological Association was dropped when the therapists involved learned that Bryant was not a member of the group at the time.
Asked if the complaints against Curtis Bryant had come to the attention of the Archdiocese of Washington, or of other bishops whose priests were at St. Luke's, one therapist replied:
The bishops were in constant contact with St. Luke's, and were running the show. Canice did what the bishops wanted him to do. Many knew about Curtis. Sometimes a visiting bishop would meet Curtis, seeing him prance around like a peacock, and say, 'Who the hell was that?' We'd say, 'Oh, he's our director.'"
As the situation deteriorated, the therapists filed a complaint against Bryant's license to practice as a psychologist in Maryland. The therapists who filed the complaints were informed that an investigation was already being conducted by the state; some were asked to submit additional information. Later, several were told by investigators that Bryant would no longer be permitted to practice in Maryland.
According to the State of Maryland, Curtis Bryant's license was placed on "inactive status" on March 31, 1996. The state would not confirm what--if any--complaints had been filed against him, since such information is not released to the public unless a final action has been taken.
Finally Bryant took a leave of absence, then left St. Luke's later in 1996. He is now working for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, seeing patients, conducting evaluations, and serving on an "intervention team" for priests. As of January, 1997 he had not obtained a license to practice psychology in California.
The program defended
Father Canice Connors left St. Luke Institute in December 1996, and Father Stephen Rosetti, who had been second in command, assumed control of the facility. Father Rosetti stated he is unaware of any allegations impugning the behavior or either Curtis Bryant or Canice Connors and believes they left the Institute in good standing.
Asked about the unusually long hospitalizations at St. Luke's, Father Stephen Rosetti stated that the goals of their program differ from those of most secular programs. While an ordinary treatment facility might seek only to ensure that the patient is stable--not homicidal or suicidal--he pointed out that St. Luke's must aim to prepare patients for an eventual return to pastoral ministry.
Father Rosetti further stated that St. Luke's is committed to upholding the teachings of the Catholic Church. He reported that 90 percent of the staff therapists are Catholic (most of them priests or religious), and even the non-Catholic therapists have agreed to honor Catholic teachings when treating Catholic patients. (He pointed out that St. Luke's treats clergy of other faiths as well, and the therapists must respect these patients' beliefs as well).
Father Rosetti stated that, while the Institute does not attempt to change anyone's sexual orientation, the therapists give patients the emotional tools by which they can live out their commitment to celibacy, whatever their orientation might be. Asked whether patients attend Dignity Masses, he stated that the Center does not encourage such attendance, although patients are free to attend Mass or other functions off-site on weekends. He confirmed that the Institute takes the same attitude toward meetings sponsored by Courage: St. Luke's doe not provide transportation, but patients are free to attend meetings on their own time.
Father Rosetti is much more emphatic in his rejection of the most serious allegations about heterodox attitudes at St. Luke's. Asked about a report that one therapist, a nun, had argued that a patient's opposition to women's ordination indicated that he hated women, he responded categorically, "That couldn't happen." And in response to the accusation that some bishops send priests to St. Luke's to "treat" their orthodoxy, or that a diocese will tell the Center how long they want a priest to stay, Father Rosetti simply asked, "Would a Roman Catholic bishop treat a priest that badly?"
The New Life Center
During his first year at St. Mary's Seminary (1993), Anthony, was told by his formation director, "You strike me as an old-fashioned Italian monsignor who is stuck in the 1950s. We don't need a-------s like you in the Church." Anthony relates:
I looked at him and said, "Father" (he would always get very angry when I called him Father; he reminded me his name was Tom)... I said, "Well, Father, with all due respect, I would rather be, as you say, caught in the 1950s than trapped in the 1970s like you," and I walked out.
Anthony complained to his diocese about the seminary, but was warned, "If you want to be ordained for this diocese, you'd better learn how to play the game." Anthony says that his second year at St. Mary's was worse than the first. A woman who taught a course on pastoral counseling, was very vocal in her dissent from Church teaching on subjects like abortion and homosexuality. She opened her first class with a complaint about women's role in the Church and an admonition that the men were "wasting their time" studying to be priests, when they should become social workers or psychologists instead.
In April of 1995, officials at the seminary learned that Anthony had looked into switching to another diocese. He was soon sent to the New Life Center for a weekend evaluation because of this "inappropriate behavior." Thus began the story that opened this essay.
After an interview with New Life Center Associate Director Sister Carla Przybilla, OSF, and several written tests, Anthony met with Dr. Thomas Drummond, who declared that the tests showed he had "substance-abuse tendencies" and was "homophobic." Drummond predicted, "In five years, you will be an angry drunk who alienates the whole parish council." Anthony says that he replied, "Dr. Drummond, I don't know much about psychology, but I do know that it is common for people who have dysfunctions to project them onto others." Anthony points out that he had left a successful career in the business world to enter the seminary; he had earned an MBA degree, become a financial analyst, and was pulling in a $60,000 annual salary. "And then to be treated like an idiot by this guy...," he complains.
Anthony decided not to take any legal action, since his new diocese disregarded the reports from Drummond and St. Mary's and accepted him into its seminary program.
After his February, 1996 evaluation at the New Life Center (described above), Andrew Walter agreed with his vocation director that he would resign at the end of the year. However, the seminary expelled the 31-year-old seminarian with three days left in the year's program, saying that he was "talking down the institution."
After contacting his friend Anthony and meeting with Dr. John Frauncis, Walter contacted Drummond and requested a copy of his evaluation. Drummond refused, saying, "I don't write them for lay people, and I don't write them for other psychologists. I only write them for bishops." Dr. Frauncis then contacted Drummond directly, and finally was able to obtain a copy of Walter's file. "If they were doing their homework, we never would have gotten hold of the evaluation," says Walter. "They thought he was evaluating me for a diocese and that he would recommend against me when he saw the report."
Says Dr. Frauncis, after reviewing Drummond's data and report, "I had no idea how a professional psychologist could come to these conclusions. There's no data to justify what he said."
Drummond diagnosed had Walter as suffering from severe problems of sexual identity, along with "histrionic personality disorder" and "narcissistic personality disorder." According to Dr. Frauncis, Drummond's report insinuates that Walter is "homophobic" because he is himself a homosexual in denial. Drummond said that Andrew was "intolerant" of homosexuals, that he experiences his heterosexuality "in the negative sense of not being homosexual," and that homosexuality "is an aspect of his own personality that Andrew did not have the opportunity to explore growing up."
Drummond included on the list of Walter's problems "a distorted negative reaction to homosexual behavior in others" and complained that "Andrew believes that his careful distinction between homosexual orientation, which he thinks is fine, and homosexual attitudes and behavior, which he disapproves, should be respected and he cannot understand why others think him homophobic." He faults Walter for "his anger at and rejection of values and behaviors with which he does not agree." In his summary, Drummond cited Walter's "lack of important intimate relationships among his peers" at the seminary as evidence of developmental delay.
The kiss of death
Dr. Frauncis re-administered the tests to which Walter had been subjected, and reports that he found not evidence of personality disorders. He characterized Drummond's report as "a violation of ethics." That report, he said, was "the kiss of death for anyone who is a heterosexual and who wants to be a priest."
Dr. Frauncis complains:
If you're going to make a diagnosis that will impact a person's career, you must have objective evidence to back it up--evidence from a psychological test and behavioral incidents. It cannot be totally conjectural on the part of the psychologist. Neither the test data, nor the behavior that is discussed in Dr. Drummond's report shows any evidence of the diagnostic findings.
In a January 6 phone conversation, Drummond defended his diagnosis, which he explained was meant to indicate an unspecified sexual disorder, such as might incur in a person who is asexual or unaware of his sexuality. He said many of the claims made in the letter he received from Andrew Walter's attorney did not reflect the contents of his report. He specifically denied diagnosing Walter as a homosexual in denial.
Drummond stated that it is important for seminarians to have had "appropriate kinds of sexual experience at the right age." He cited as an example of developmental delay a priest he once treated who "never learned to masturbate until age 38." Drummond stated that this indicated lack of connection with his peer group as a boy, since such information would have been shared among school boys.
Drummond stressed that Walter's primary problem was "tweaking the nose of authority," which prompted the seminary's request for an evaluation. "If you're hostile to the people who need to form you, you will do the same with a bishop," said Drummond.
Dr. Frauncis disagreed: "This does not apply if the authority figure is pretending to be Catholic while in effecting violating basic rules of Catholicism--permitting homosexual behavior between faculty and students or adulterous liaisons between faculty members. These people deny the Church's authority, yet demand deference to themselves. Andrew does not have a problem with legitimate authority."
Again, no license
And speaking of legitimate authority, what professional authority did Dr. Drummond and the New Life Center bring to the case of Andrew Walter? Calls to the Virginia Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services revealed that neither Thomas Drummond, nor his associate, Sister Carla Przybilla, OSF, nor the New Life Center are licensed in the State of Virginia. Drummond initiated an application in 1993 for certification as a Licensed Professional Counselor, but never followed through.
According to Charlene Whitehead of the department's Office of Licensure, some facilities qualify for "religious exemption" of licensure. However, she notes that their office has no record of Drummond or the New Life Center requesting such exemption. Furthermore, she said, the exemption is granted to centers which use religious methods such as prayer and spiritual counseling as their mode of therapy. Centers run by religious organizations which use standard therapies and employ credentialed psychologists usually require licensing.
The promotional material put out by the New Life Center gives no clue that the institution is not licensed. One brochure boasts, "Nearly 500 from the United States, Guam, Italy, Phillipines (sic) and Ireland have come for assistance" in the Center's eight years of operation. The Center treats addictions ("chemical, sexual, food") and other psychological problems (codependency, dysfunctional behavior), and also admits people for "personal growth" or psychological evaluations. Treatment consists of individual and group therapy, learning life and relationship skills, stress reduction, and helping individuals becoming "integrated" with their bodies through nutrition, exercise, and body awareness. Each patient has massage therapy weekly, with "stretching and breathing skills" twice a week. They are to learn to stop "self-defeating behaviors" and develop a "success-oriented frame of mind."
Another flyer claims remarkable success for the program, asserting that, in those eight years, "not one person who has completed their program takes drugs...is in therapy... [or] has such [authority] problems..." The Center's promotional literature notes that Dr. Drummond lectures throughout the world, in addition to holding workshops held at the New Life Center. Drummond, a Knight of Malta, has also released a new book, The Ministerial Counseling Role: Guidelines for Ethical Behavior.
The monthly cost of treatment at the New Life Center is approximately $4,000, which may sometimes be covered by insurance policies. The usual length of treatment varies from three months to seven months.
Villa St. John Vianney
When Father Tim was sent to Villa St. John Vianney for nearly a year in 1993, he expected help for his serious sexual addiction. But while his diocese paid $10,000 to $15,000 per month, he reports that he was given little in the way of therapy. Although many hours were spent in daily individual and group therapy, much of his "treatment" consisted of encouraging him to "come out of the closet," he complains.
Father Tim believed that his homosexual temptations stemmed from childhood trauma and could be treated, but the therapists disagreed and refused to help him with these issues. Says Father Tim:
In group, when I tried to point out common emotional problems that lead to homosexuality, the therapists said, "That's bull!" They said it's genetic. They kept trying to get me to accept that I am a homosexual and that this is permanent. I told my therapist that, yes, I may have made a mistake but I consider myself a faithful priest. He told me that my choice to become a priest was because of my childhood wounds and insecurities I had experienced from my alcoholic father, that my home life was very chaotic, so I fled to the Church for refuge. I said I could see how one could think that, but in spite of all that, I do believe God has called me to be a priest.
Father Tim also complained of an immoral atmosphere at the Villa, charging that some of the priests were actively pursuing homosexual encounters. "In group sessions, I was sickened to learn about the gay subculture among priests and bishops," he said. In one group session, he remembers, a priest announced, "I'm gay and I'm proud of it." The result was that remarkable: "A number of priests started to agree. The therapist was encouraging them. Then they started saying how the Church is wrong, the Church has to change."
The final report from Villa St. John Vianney recommended that Father Tim be returned to ministry. But later he was told by his diocese that he must either seek laicization or it would be sought for him. He points out that different bishops respond to homosexuality in markedly different ways. The priest who announced that he was proud to be gay, for instance, was not accepted back into his diocese. However, he applied to another diocese, where he now serves on the bishop's staff.
Several other priests who had been patients at Villa St. John Vianney--and who requested complete anonymity because they feared retribution from within their own dioceses--shared Father Tim's concerns abut the Villa's approach to homosexuality. Homosexual priests were encouraged to "accept themselves," they reported, and relationships between patients were tolerated. These men believed that their own problems did not require long-term treatment, and that they had been kept at the Villa against their will without medical or psychological necessity.
Villa St. John Vianney Administrator James Horvath stated in a January 9 phone conversation that patients are not kept longer than necessary at the facility; he insisted that the length of treatment is determined solely by clinical considerations, with no input from bishops. Horvath said that, in the past four years, the Villa has attempted to reduce the length of patient stays (a claim which is not supported by the records of the priests interviewed for this article), and that patients are "free to leave at any time." He did acknowledge, however, that a bishop can pressure a priest to stay by refusing him an assignment if he refuses treatment.
Asked about the Villa's policy about treatment of homosexuality, Horvath stressed that the staff focuses on changing behaviors, helping priests and religious to live a celibate life, no matter what their orientation. He noted significant recent changes in the program, with attempts to follow a "residential model" rather than a "medical model." He explained: "A medical model is hierarchical, while a residential model is professionals helping other professionals."
Hope for healing
The complaints against these treatment centers point to two different problems. On one hand, emotionally vulnerable priests and seminarians are apparently being subjected to invasive evaluations, treated by unlicensed therapists, and kept in dysfunctional institutions. At the same time, members of the clergy who genuinely need psychological help--particularly with homosexual impulses and compulsive sexual disorders--are being denied effective, Christ-centered therapy.
Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons lists what he sees as the major shortcomings of Catholic treatment centers such as St. Luke Institute and Villa St. John Vianney in treating such problems: "Failure to help patients identify homosexual behavior and attractions as symptoms of serious emotional problems, failure to incorporate Catholic spirituality in the process of recovery from these problems, and support of homosexual behavior as long as it is not promiscuous and is not with minors."
Fitzgibbons also criticizes such institutions for their use of long-term hospitalization for all patients. "These institutions have an average stay of 6 months, while other facilities which treat sexual disorders usually use two to four weeks of inpatient treatment, followed by outpatient therapy." These long stays, he observes, "are to the financial benefit of the institution and to the detriment of patients."
Most Catholic treatment programs take it as axiomatic that homosexuality is not a psychological disorder, nor is it related to pedophilia. (Father Rosetti makes the latter point in his book Slayers of the Soul; Father Canice Connors, his predecessor at St. Luke's, advanced the same argument in a 1994 Commonweal article.) But many other mental-health professionals disagree. More importantly, some psychologists report that effective treatment for homosexual impulses can forestall more flagrant behavior such as child abuse.
Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, Executive Director of the National Association for the Research and Treatment of Homosexuality (NARTH), notes:
Contrary to gay apologists' claims, the fact is that there is a higher incidence of pedophilia committed by homosexuals than by heterosexuals. Why? Because homosexuality is generally associated with psychosexual immaturity. A number of studies show that the homosexual is approximately twice as likely to commit pedophile acts as the heterosexual.
There's also another cause/effect relationship: the homosexual adult is also likely to have been the victim of pedophilia himself (approximately one-third of my homosexual patients were sexually molested when they were little boys, by older men). Men who were sexually abused as children often grow up to become pedophiles themselves.
Protestant ministries designed specifically to treat homosexuality have been in business for over 20 years, claiming impressive success rates among thousands of participants. Exodus International, an umbrella organization for Christian ministries to homosexuals, lists over 80 groups in North America, plus groups in Europe, Asia, and South America. Some of their member groups provide referrals to local Christian therapists; others operate support groups or hold classes. Desert Stream Ministry developed the popular Living Waters discipleship program, in which members of a church work closely with program participants, stressing the development of healthy friendships between heterosexual men and the recovering homosexuals. In 1980, Father John Harvey founded Courage, a support group for Catholics of homosexual orientation who want to live in accord with Church teachings on sexuality. Courage provided an alternative to the banned group Dignity, which claims that homosexuality is normal and that the Church should accept gays.
According to Dr. Nicolosi, studies of homosexual treatment methods usually show the same success rates: one-third cured, one-third significantly improved, and one-third unchanged. He notes, "Catholics have a lot to learn from Protestant ministries. We have the doctrine, but they have the enthusiasm." He notes that only 10 percent of Catholic dioceses in the United States sponsor a chapter of Courage. "That means that 90 percent of Catholic young people struggling with homosexuality have no resources. The Catholic Church is dropping the ball--saying it's a sin, but not helping them. We're losing Catholics because of it. At Exodus conferences, I run into lots of former Catholics."
Forgiveness and reconciliation
Psychologist Dr. Maria Valdes, in an appendix to Father John Harvey's 1996 book The Truth About Homosexuality, describes homosexuality as "arrested psychosexual development," often due to severely disordered family relationships, with the person remaining at a developmental stage at which he is focused on being accepted by members of his own gender, and has not yet become interested in the other gender. She says, "when a person with a homosexual condition attains heterosexuality, homosexuality has not been reversed; rather, the psychosexual development has been completed."
Dr. Fitzgibbons says that the keys to his therapeutic program for homosexuals are forgiveness and spirituality. "No amount of insight, adult love and affirmation, assertiveness, or behavioral and cognitive changes can resolve the profoundly deep emotional wounds present within these individuals," he explains. "Only God's love is powerful enough to overcome the painful loneliness and sadness, insecurities and fears by providing a feeling of being deeply loved, special, and safe at every life stage. As the emotional wounds are healed, homosexual attractions and behaviors diminish and eventually disappear."
Traditionally, Dr. Fitzgibbons notes, therapists have urged patients to identify and express their anger, but not to forgive. He adds that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is very effective in helping a person forgive and resolve his anger. Father-forgiveness, he says, is facilitated by cultivating a relationship with God the Father. Other relationships which help heal emotional wounds include: Mary as nurturing mother, Jesus as best friend, and St. Joseph as loving father.
Several loyal Catholic psychologists contacted for this essay recommend the treatment program at St. Vincent's Hospital in Harrison, New York. Another effective treatment facility, governed by orthodox Catholic principles, is run by an order of nuns in midwestern United States--who, shying away from publicity, chose not to be identified. One therapist also reported that Guest House in Minnesota is an excellent program for treating priests with alcoholism.
Don't blame celibacy
Many secular observers have argued that celibacy, the "unnatural" all-male clerical environment, and the stresses of priestly life are to blame for priests' falling into homosexuality and other sexual disorders. But Paul Vitz, a professor of psychology at New York University, sharply disagrees. "Celibacy is not the problem," Vitz says. "Look at Episcopalian priests--they have more sexual problems than Catholic priests."
"Psychologically, celibacy is not a stress, except in a sexually saturated culture," Vitz continues. "The saturation in this society likely peaked some years ago. A lot of people, especially young men, are tired of this emphasis on sex, and they want to be celibate."
As lay people assume more of the burden for administrative jobs in the parish, Vitz believes, priests will feel less stress, and more freedom to perform their true priestly functions: preaching, teaching, spiritual guidance, and administration of the sacraments. He also believes that some portion of the loss of self-confidence among priests can be traced back to an over-emphasis on psychology, especially among diocesan officials. "One of the first things they need to learn is that psychology does not have the answers," he cautions.
A more serious problem today, says Dr. Vitz, is the selection process in diocesan seminaries, some of which he says are "in a state of collapse." Many seminaries refuse to admit young men deemed "homophobic" and some insist that candidates be open to women's ordination.
"Most of the theological liberalism in the Church today is not found among the laity, but among the clergy and, right now, they control most of the seminaries and religious education programs," Vitz concludes. "The clergy have been the heretics in the Catholic Church since Judas."
Lesley Payne writes regularly for the San Diego News Notes and Los Angeles Lay Catholic Mission.