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.
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.