The Fix Was In: the board rips the therapy scam

By Diogenes (articles ) | Feb 28, 2004

The report of the National Review Board contains some well-aimed criticisms of the part played by many bishops in the abuse crisis. Their final recommendations, by contrast, strike me as too vague to be useful. Yet the sentence quoted below (from p. 115 of the document) has the potential to become one of the most explosive of the Board's findings:

The Review Board found that treatment centers upon which Church leaders elected to rely -- almost all of which were Church affiliated -- had a vested interest in an ability to "cure" pedophiles and other individuals who had engaged in sexual abuse so that the centers would continue to receive referrals.

In plain English, it was good business for therapists to give molesters an overly optimistic prognosis. That finding ought to be in the headlines. But the Board lays it on even harder:

It appears that some of these centers may have been less rigorous than non-[Church]-affiliated centers, either in their treatment or in their willingness to opine about the priest's suitability for future ministry. In addition, it appears that many of the individuals previously managing certain treatment centers had notions of sexuality that at best could be termed inconsistent with Church teaching.


Names are not mentioned, but it's clear from context that included are the St. Luke Institute, the Center for Living in Hartford, the now defunct House of Affirmation, and the Servants of the Paraclete center in New Mexico. The Board does not lay all the blame for the failure of treatment on the centers themselves. It found that

some Church leaders withheld important and damaging information from treatment centers. Others solicited second opinions where the prognosis offered by the first professional was not to their liking, or relied on treatment centers that were more likely to provide a clean bill of health.

The board also mentioned that some therapists cleared priests for ministry on the assumption that they would be monitored and provided with continuing counseling, whereas in reality "supervised ministry" was impossible.

Now this adds up to a damning indictment of the self-designated experts who convinced a far-too-docile Church that the fix could be entrusted to them. In fact it's hard to see how the tort lawyers will not seize on this collusion as part of their claim of negligence. At the very least, the professionals who have all but monopolized the racket for the past twenty years have some explaining to do. But the part I liked best was the Board's conclusion:

In sum, by viewing sexual abuse with minors primarily as an issue of "sexual identity" and not primarily as a crime and a grave sin, bishops failed to fulfill their responsibilities to members of the public and members of the Church.

Spoken like a Catholic.

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  • Posted by: - Mar. 01, 2004 10:02 AM ET USA

    I have long lamented the fact that bishops are chosen for their managerial skills rather than their evident personal holiness. But I may be incorrect. Any accomplished manager in industry who was given the power and authority a bishop has over a diocese would take office on a Sunday and start scouring the ranks of his decadent clergy and staff on Monday. In short order he would have eliminated the offenders and all the rest would be shaking on their knees praying he wouldn't can them!

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Feb. 28, 2004 9:27 PM ET USA

    The very heart of the problem is encompassed by the short phrase "Names are not mentioned..." As I recall at the end of the Book of Revelations names ARE mentioned. Something about if your "name" is not found written in the Book of Life you get thrown into the Lake of Fire. Personal responsibility is a bummer!

  • Posted by: - Feb. 28, 2004 4:32 PM ET USA

    "Triumph of the Therapeutic", indeed! Thank you, Diogenes, for this straightforward, severe report which has caught the bishop-bureaucrats in the repeated act of "outsourcing" their duties to therapy experts. The report also (however gingerly) confirms several widespread suspicions as to causes. Now it is essential that bishops answer for this gross neglect of their ministry.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 28, 2004 11:41 AM ET USA

    Diogenes, I do hate to rain on the parade, but the use of various weasel words troubles me: "appears that....may have been". Something about that equivocation bugs me; as if they're giving the treatment centres some wiggle room that they don't deserve. That said, the closer was excellent.