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By Diogenes (articles ) | Oct 17, 2005

A long, loud sigh of relief was doubtless heard in many a chancery this morning.

The Servants of the Paraclete Center, in Jemez Springs, N.M., specializing in treatment of clergy sexual disorders, had an appalling record before being forced to close in 1995. Apart from numerous recidivist molesters returned with overly optimist prognoses to their dioceses and religious communities, the notorious pedophiles James Porter and Rudy Kos continued to abuse boys while in the midst of treatment at the Center. More rotten still, the Servants of the Paraclete hired serial molester Fr. Gordon Macrae to be Assistant Director of one of its treatment programs -- and that after Macrae completed his own residential treatment at the Center. Worse yet, one of the directors of the psychosexual treatment program was Fr. John Feit, a Servants of the Paraclete priest who earlier, while a member of another religious congregation, had fled Texas after pleading guilty to aggravated sexual assault on a schoolteacher whom he found praying in a church. Beyond question, the archives of the Jemez Springs facility would provide a detailed picture of the names, dates, places, bargains, compromises, and indirect blackmail that resulted in the sex abuse meltdown.

Well guess what?

What might have been a rich lode of information on the background of abusive Catholic priests and religious brothers has been destroyed by a center in New Mexico where some of them had been sent for treatment.

The material was discarded, according to the head of the order that ran it, following policy and because of concern for medical privacy and storage space. The program was closed in 1995.

Concern for storage space. Right.

Minnesota lawyer Patrick Noaker, who says he has filed almost 2,000 clergy or teacher sex abuse cases nationwide, said the loss of the records is frustrating and "highly significant."

Noaker, who has seen some patient records from the Servants, said they often contained information about how many sex abuse allegations had been made and under what circumstances. "The destruction of those records was really the destruction of key evidence in criminal proceedings," Noaker said.

Note that no one is demanding access to those records that involve confidences revealed to a therapist by a patient. The point isn't that we're deprived of Rudy Kos's couch confessions to Dr. Ruth. There is still a huge amount of material that does not involve patient-doctor confidentiality that would explain a lot of the Center's disastrous decisions. Who referred the abusers? Who treated them and how? What details were the therapists given about past allegations and treatment? Who wrote the evaluations for whom? Whose prognoses proved sound and unsound? What feedback was sought or received? What indications were there that a bishop or superior angled for a particular recommendation post-treatment? Was there ever an intervention to change a prognosis? Who hired the incompetent therapists? Who hired the deviant ones? Who did the background checks? Who received a premature promotion and on whose say-so? Who got the sack and why? Was there any internal complaint or any attempt to silence whistle-blowers?

All moot questions, of course, because the documents containing the answers are up in smoke. Perhaps Bishop Wilton Gregory was indulging this strain of irony when he said (concerning the National Review Board's report on the abuse crisis), "The terrible history recorded here today, is history."

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  • Posted by: Eleazar - Oct. 18, 2005 10:48 AM ET USA

    Based only on the information at hand, it does not appear that there was any wrong-doing on the part of the Servants. Granted, the storage space excuse is a red herring. The records could have been transferred to another facility, but if they established a policy concerning the destruction of records & followed it, they complied with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Also note that HIPAA has more stringent protection for psychotherapy records.

  • Posted by: shrink - Oct. 17, 2005 4:29 PM ET USA

    Undoubtedly involved in the hiring of therapists, was the medical director for the Jemez Springs center, Jay Feierman, a man whose heart warms to those afflicted with pedophilia. He hosted the first ever national conference on pedophilia at Jemez Springs in the mid 1980s. The procedings were never published, but there was a book that came out. Feierman, J. R., Ed. (1990). Pedophilia: Biosocial Dimensions. New York, Springer-Verlag

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