Uncle Ted Gets Love from St. Luke's Institute

By Rod Dreher
May 15, 2009

A Catholic friend in Washington writes to say that he's just received a "save the date" notice for October 19, when the retired Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington will receive the St. Luke Institute Award at the Vatican Embassy. According to the St. Luke Institute:

At the Annual Benefit, the Saint Luke Award is presented to an individual who in their professional life or charitable works embodies the ideals of the Institute: the rebuilding of the spiritual, physical, emotional and intellectual life of their brothers and sisters. In undertaking these tasks, the honoree is motivated by the Gospel ideals of compassion, charity, and a belief that all persons are brothers and sisters in Christ.

Ah, the St. Luke Institute, whose director, Msgr. Stephen Rossetti, once wrote the following words (cited by Diogenes):

In the 10 years in which Saint Luke Institute has treated over 300 priests who have sexually molested minors, we currently know of only 2 who have relapsed into child sexual abuse. While it is likely that there are others whom we do not know about, our experience to date suggests that it is improbable that a priest will relapse if he has done well in residential treatment, complied with our 5-year after-care program and engaged in ongoing supervision and outpatient treatment. ...

A Christian perspective suggests the need for society and church to take a reasoned response with an informed compassion and a willingness to delve into the complexities. But society hates and fears men who sexually abuse minors. We stereotype them; we claim they are all incorrigible; we wish to mark them as people not like ourselves. These men tap a deep well of fear and anger that goes beyond the facts of their crime. To reintegrate child molesters into our society will require us to face and overcome our own fears. To live in peace with child molesters will mean to let go of some of our own inner angers.

Perhaps their presence in society can ultimately be healing for us. They challenge us to face an unconscious and primal darkness within humankind. Our inability to face this darkness causes us to stereotype and banish all who embody our estranged dis-passions.

Monsignor Rossetti, who was one of the top advisers to the US Catholic bishops on how to handle ex abusers. wrote those words in 1995, in the Jesuit magazine America. Let go of your inner anger at the child molesting cleric among us, why don't you? As Catholic World Report's Diogenes reminds us, the late Father John Geoghan, the molesting monster of Boston, was treated by Msgr. Rossetti and his crew twice -- in 1989 and 1995.

If the prominent Catholic psychologist Richard Sipe, a man of the Catholic left (which it shouldn't be necessary to say here, but is) who from his exhaustive research knows more than just about anybody about the sexual abuse crisis in the American church, is correct in his allegations, then it is all too fitting, if darkly comic, that the St. Luke's Institute is honoring McCarrick. Here's part of an open letter Dr. Sipe wrote to the Pope. Read past the jump -- it's stern stuff:

While I was Adjunct Professor at a Pontifical Seminary, St. Mary's Baltimore (1972-1984) a number of seminarians came to me with concerns about the behavior of Theodore E. McCarrick, then bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey. It has been widely known for several decades that Bishop/Archbishop now Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick took seminarians and young priests to a shore home in New Jersey, sites in New York, and other places and slept with some of them. He established a coterie of young seminarians and priests that he encouraged to call him "Uncle Ted." I have his correspondence where he referred to these men as being "cousins" with each other.

'Uncle Ted' allegedly used different pretexts to attract seminarians and priestsCatholic journalist Matt C. Abbott already featured the statements of two priests (2005) and one ex-priest (2006) about McCarrick. All three were "in the know" and aware of the Cardinal McCarrick's activities in the same mode as I had heard at the seminary. None of these reporters, as far as Abbott knew, had sexual contact with the cardinal in the infamous sleepovers, but one had first hand reports from a seminarian/priest who did share a bed and received cards and letters from McCarrick. The modus operendi is similar to the documents and letters I have received from a priest who describes in detail McCarrick's sexual advances and personal activity. At least one prominent journalist at the Boston Globe was aware of McCarrick from his investigation of another priest, but until now legal documentation has not been available. And even at this point the complete story cannot be published because priest reporters are afraid of reprisals.

Your Holiness, you must seek out and listen to these stories, as I have from many priests about their seduction by highly placed clerics, and the dire consequences in their lives that does end with personal distress.

I know the names of at least four priests who have had sexual encounters with Cardinal McCarrick. I have documents and letters that record the first hand testimony and eye witness accounts of McCarrick, then archbishop of Newark, New Jersey actually having sex with a priest, and at other times subjecting a priest to unwanted sexual advances.

Your Holiness, you must seek out and listen to the stories, as I have from many priests about their seduction by highly placed clerics, and the dire consequences in their lives that does end in their victimization alone.

Such behavior fosters confusion and makes celibacy problematic for seminarians and priests. This abuse paves the way for them to pass the tradition on -- to have sex with each other and even with minors.

The pattern and practice of priests in positions of responsibility for the training of men for the priesthood -- rectors, confessors, spiritual directors, novice masters, and other clergy -- who have sexual relations with seminarians and other priests is rampant in the Catholic Church in the United States. I have reviewed hundreds of documents that record just such behavior and interviewed scores of priests who have suffered from this activity. Priests, sexually active in the above manner have frequently been appointed by the Vatican to be ordained bishops or even created cardinals.

Elsewhere, Sipe has written of what he calls the Cardinal McCarrick Syndrome. Excerpt:

As the documentation from civil and criminal cases erupted from every corner of the States a further element in the dynamic of celibate violation and sexual abuse revealed itself. That is: The pattern and practice of superiors, confessors, spiritual directors, novice masters, and faculty members having sexual exchanges and friendships with seminarians and young priests. Its prevalence in the United States is unquestionable. The legal cases that have been filed against priests who have abused minors are but one source of reliable documentation. Mental health records are another. Most of all the testimony of the abused is substantial, painful, pitiful, and disheartening.

A great deal about this element in the system is well known and also undeniable. The trouble is that it is sealed within the system. Few of the seminarian/priest victims will talk on record. They have everything to loose. Sexually active priests who have no intention of being celibate do everything to cover their tracks.

But the reality goes to the top. And the pattern is not exclusively homosexual. Bishops and even cardinals who have more or less long term relationships with women are known about and there is as-of-yet unpublished documentation. (This practice used to be called concubinage, was most common and quasi tolerated. Most the time now these relationships are carried on under some more dignified word.)

More ominous are the relationships of sexual sponsorship in which an older priest or superior takes an attractive and responsive younger priest into his affectionate embrace. Yes, some of these associations do become sexual. As the senior man rises in stature, position, and power he brings his protege along with him up the scale of the organization. Sometimes the younger man eventually equals his mentor's stature; he too can repeat the pattern so well learned and practiced. This pattern is well exercised in Rome.

There are scores of reliable documents that demonstrate this practice and people involved.

The main point is that the dynamic is in operation and affects even good, observant clergy who cannot speak openly because the secret system will not tolerate them. Where are they to go? The press will not touch malfeasance on this level of the power system without impossible vetting that will expose the whistler blower to potential or certain destruction. Who of the many-in-the-know within the secret clerical system have that kind of courage?

Why does St. Luke's Institute continue this harmful charade by honoring Cardinal McCarrick? Or have they investigated these allegations -- which are not anonymously made -- and determined them to be untrue? Or maybe they really do think that Cardinal McCarrick "embodies the ideals of the Institute." Ahem.


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