A story about St. Luke’s: “I have seen wonderful moments of grace there; priests and Religious who limped in, who left healed.”

The other day I posted about how bishops have used “psychological evaluation” as a weapon against conservative and traditional priests. At the time I acknowledged that some priests really do need help. Along with the horror stories I have received about “treatment”, I have received more positive stories from priests as well.

Here is one of them.

In fairness we have to hear of these as well.

Dear Father:

As always, I am following your excellent posts, which are such an education to us and such a service to the Church. This might be a useful bit of background.

I am an alumnus of Saint Luke Institute in Silver Spring, MD; my presenting issue was abuse of alcohol. I was vividly aware of the lurid reputation of the place from the Father Peterson days (frankly, and I think you’ll understand this, I was rather pleased to get the chance to see for myself what goes on there!).

The place does an awful lot of good. That there are a strong representation of young conservative clergy is true — but younger priests tend to be conservative (as they understand the Tradition) today. I met really fine, solid, wonderful priests and brothers and nuns who needed a break and to learn to care for themselves. It was a privilege to live with them. I was truly edified. They created among themselves a caring, supportive community; a number of Religious (Brothers and Sisters) told me that they had experienced the deepest level of community life they had ever known. I think that is a tribute to priests and Religious who found themselves in an unexpected place and did the best they could, and did very well.

I saw three problems at Saint Luke which I would mention:

1. The first problem: the abuse of these places by some members of the episcopate is certainly real: I think of one Bishop who seems to send ANY of his priests or deacons there if they get into trouble, and there is no path back: they never get readmitted to ministry, despite promises, regardless of the severity of the problem. It is a treatment center; he uses it to park a problem while he figures out how to get rid of him. I think perhaps he is too distracted by the building of his great vanity project, his Cathedral, and he forgets that each of his priests and deacons are Temples of the Holy Ghost. The sunlight off the crystal must distract him, I suppose.

2. The second is like unto it: you have used the word, “conflict of interest.” There is a fundamental conflict of interest in Saint Luke’s in that the client in the therapy is not the priest or religious; the client is the Diocese or Religious Order. It is paying the bills. It’s not conceivable that decisions made by staff do not take into account the fact that they do not want to hack off the Bishops who pay the bills and decide to send the next client.

2a. I know I said just three problems, but how can I resist this: the Bishops are the fly in the ointment, the bride at every funeral and the corpse at every wake. The turd in the punch bowl…

3. The embrace of the professional counseling standards by Saint Luke is undoubtedly necessary from their point of view. They need to maintain professional standing and accreditation. This is just how we lost our Catholic colleges and universities and seminaries. A priest who, for example, has experienced same-sex attraction, and — probably linked — drug- alcohol- social problems, is counseled from the perspective of, Are you comfortable in your own skin, rather than “Let us look at your same sex attraction from the perspective of the Church’s teaching.” The problem becomes, “are you comfortable with this,” and that does not address the moral issue, nor does it treat of how you live (the ministry, the Religious life, your Christian life) fruitfully.

In other words, the standards St Luke Institute adopts are the professional standards expected by its peers in evaluation. That will always be a problem. But I have seen wonderful moments of grace there; priests and Religious who limped in, who left healed. This is the other side of the story.

I am very glad for Father’s story, especially because I have known men admitted to St. Luke’s and I know that others whom I know may have to go there as well.

There are inevitably two sides to these coins we toss about.   It is important to pay attention to the reverse of the medal.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. arga says:

    This is extremely informative; thank you Fr. Z and thanks to the priest who sent this in. What baffles me is why bishops send men to a place that apparently drives out authentic spiritual direction, which I should think would take priority over “professional” counseling standards, which are anything but tolerant of Catholic teaching. If I am right about that, then this is just another example of modernist rot penetrating the Church.

  2. Gil Garza says:

    Any demand that priests release their Private Healthcare Information (PHI) to their employers, namely their bishop is a scandal in itself. Such behavior has been the subject of huge lawsuits whereby the employee sues the pants off employers who make such demands in the world of the laity. There are Federal laws, HIPAA, that strictly prohibit employers or anyone else from having access to PHI.

    I would strongly urge any priest who is or has been so pressured to consult an attorney.

  3. HvonBlumenthal says:

    How many bishops have been treated at St Luke’s? …. ?

  4. HvonBlumenthal says: How many bishops have been treated at St Luke’s?

    A priest wrote to me about this today. He said that they go to a very different place (I’ll leave out the name for now). He described a place run by religious:

    They are professional psychiatrists AND faithful religious. They treat priests with respect, no first names, no removal of clerical garb, no denial of celebration of daily Mass. Most importantly, they do not violate APA norms by being both a diagnostic center and a residential treatment center. Naturally, if I run a diagnostic program, I will find that everyone is at least a bit nuts, so as to fill up my residential center!

  5. Bellarmino Vianney says:

    “There is a fundamental conflict of interest in Saint Luke’s in that the client in the therapy is not the priest or religious; the client is the Diocese or Religious Order.”

    That is a pretty significant problem, especially when the “treatment” imposed on the priest or religious is chemical/drug “therapy”. Drug “therapy” could be used to maim a person, take away their ambition, remove their zeal for the Ten Commandments, authentic Catholicism, the salvation of souls, etc.

    Many of those drugs have significant side effects and can cause lifelong problems; many have said that starting and stopping those drugs is a living nightmare. I cannot personally speak to that experience, but if that is the case, then it seems as though the priest or religious essentially experiences a form of torture or harming with chemical weapons if they are not freely permitted to reject proposed drug “treatment”.

    Fr. Z. mentioned it the other day – a priest leaves the “treatment” slurring his words and with a completely different personality. That, it seems to me, is a type of being “maimed” with the use of chemicals if the priest objects to the use of those chemicals.

    One has to thank God that saints like St. John Vianney and St. Teresa of Avila lived before modern day “psychology” and “psychiatry”. St. John Vianney converted Ars with his accurate and forceful condemnation of sin. For example, St. John Vianney adamantly preached against indecent clothing, drunkenness, and even dancing. Imagine if a priest in any diocese in America condemned dancing, drunkenness, or indecent clothing.

    Read the biography of St. John Vianney for further examples. In today’s world, it is probably not a stretch to think that he would have been mis-diagnosed as narcissistic, “bipolar”, etc.

  6. rosula says:

    There are stand alone mental illnesses, but often times, there is an overlap with spiritual affliction . It concerns me that our bishops either don’t understand this or are ignoring this fact. I believe they will answer for this colassel failure one day to our Lord.

  7. Kathleen10 says:

    I may not be understanding this correctly, but is Father saying the priests are treated in such a manner that does not endorse or remind the clergy of Catholic teaching? Does this mean they are treated using secular counseling methods, such as “are you comfortable in your own skin”, meaning, “are you embracing your same-sex attraction?”. If that is the case, then this is just another example of faithless bishops doing what they can to remove whatever remaining Catholic faith is left in a priest, and it is no wonder if priests leave, feeling better perhaps, but not confirmed in their Catholic faith at all, and perhaps now having much less Catholic faith. Immersing men in secular counseling/institution-think seems a guarantee for them to lose their faith. Maybe that’s the reason bishops are sending them.
    I think when we’re at the point of bishops using tactics such as this to beat the faith out of our priests it’s time to do something.
    Please God, in times past when the faith was in trouble you sent leaders, you sent saints. Please raise at least one up! We don’t know what to do!

  8. Imrahil says:

    For example, St. John Vianney adamantly preached against indecent clothing, drunkenness, and even dancing.

    It is not really the point here, but the latter serves as a rather refreshing, in the not necessarily positive sense of the word, reminder that zealous souls and even saints make their mistakes also.

    We have to thank God that he did not, in this case, allow this to lead to bad results via the pendulum-swing-back effect.

  9. Pingback: A story about St. Luke’s: “you are totally in their power – you are utterly at their mercy.” | Fr. Z's Blog

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