" You Have Helped US to Save the Vocations of Many"
Fresno Bishop Promises $10,000 to Maryland Center That Treats Troubled Priests

California Catholic Daily
November 20, 2008

Fresno Bishop John Steinbock has pledged $10,000 to support the Saint Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Maryland – the famous treatment center for wayward priests. Among the Institute's more infamous patients were serial pederasts and defrocked priests Rudy Kos of Dallas and John Geoghan of Boston, who was murdered by a fellow inmate while serving a prison term for his crimes. Four years ago, Bishop Steinbock sent one of his own priests to the Institute after parishioners discovered their pastor had been soliciting liaisons on a homosexual web site.

A letter obtained by California Catholic Daily to Bishop Steinbock from Msgr. Stephen Rossetti, president of Saint Luke Institute, indicates that on June 17, the Institute received the second installment of a $10,000 pledge from the Fresno diocese. So far, according to the letter, the diocese has paid $4000 toward the pledge, with a balance remaining of $6000.

"Thank you for your most generous support," wrote Msgr. Rossetti. "Your second gift of $2,000 from the Diocese of Fresno toward your pledge to our Fund Campaign will enable us to continue to assist priests, deacons and women and men religious who come from dioceses or communities who cannot afford treatment."

In the letter, Rossetti says "more than 80% of those who have entered our program return to an active, appropriate ministry… You have helped us to save the vocations of many priests and religious."

One vocation apparently saved by the Institute was that of Fr. Jean-Michael Lastiri, removed by Bishop John Steinbock as pastor of St. Patrick's in Merced in 2004 after parishioners discovered that Fr. Lastiri had frequented a homosexual web site. Because Fr. Lastiri's behavior was "compulsive and addictive," the bishop said at the time, he was sending him to St. Luke Institute for "psychological and spiritual counseling."

In June 2005, Bishop Steinbock tried to place Fr. Lastiri as an associate at Bakersfield's St. Philip the Apostle parish. After parishioners protested, however, the bishop withdrew the appointment and named Fr. Lastiri diocesan director of detention ministry. The bishop told parishioners at St. Philip the Apostle that Fr. Lastiri's problem was not "criminal sexual behavior" but "has been one of addiction... both to the fantasy world of the Internet and to the spending of money."

In 2006, Bishop Steinbock appointed Fr. Lastiri diocesan director of liturgy, worship, and evangelization, a post he continues to hold today, according to the diocesan web site.

According to its web site, the Saint Luke Institute "addresses a wide range of psychological and spiritual problems such as depression, anxiety, compulsive dysfunctional behaviors (such as gambling or incurring excessive debt), alcohol and substance abuse, a wide range of sexual issues, chronic interpersonal problems, sexual abuse, professional boundary violations, and other difficulties of those who minister in the Catholic Church." The Institute was founded in 1977 as an outpatient alcoholism treatment center for priests and religious, and four years later began offering residential treatment. Since 1996, it has been located at its current "42-acre campus, only six miles from downtown Washington, D.C.," says the web site, and "has secluded space for reflection and ample resources for physical fitness and recreation."

Saint Luke Institute and similar programs have been criticized by some professionals for its treatment philosophy. In a 2007 interview with California Catholic Daily, Dr. Judith Reisman, who has served as an expert witness in lawsuits involving sexual abuse, specifically named Saint Luke as among the treatment centers using what she called the deeply flawed and scientifically suspect "Kinsey model" when dealing with sexual dysfunction. "The Johns Hopkins Clinic and St. Luke Institute are two Kinseyan therapeutic venues," said Reisman.

In May of 2002, the state of Maryland temporarily halted admissions to the Institute following the suicide of Fr. Alfred Bietighoger, a client receiving treatment after being accused of molesting boys. A month earlier, the Boston Globe published a story in which a priest sent to the Institute after being accused of sexually molesting a boy said a doctor there had attached a device to him to measure his arousal and then showed him various images of children in sexual positions. Another priest told the Globe that priests joked that the Institute's motto was "Better living through chemistry." The clinic was at the forefront in prescribing Depo-Provera, a birth control drug, which inhibits sexual arousal in men.

A brief biography of Msgr. Rossetti on the Institute's web site says he is a priest of the Diocese of Syracuse, a licensed psychologist in Maryland and Massachusetts, and obtained his Ph.D. in psychology from Boston College. "Msgr. Rossetti lectures and gives workshops to clergy and religious in several countries on spirituality, sexuality, and mental health," says the biography.


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