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Ct. Center Treats Pedophile Priests (AP) ... and to find out if there is a physical explanation for the behavior — a brain tumor, for example.... - Mar 25 1:47 PM ET

Al Musella's Comments: (This is his personal views and are not necessarily the views of the Musella Foundation!)


Posted on: 03/26/2002

Mon Mar 25, 1:47 PM ET

By MASHA HERBST, Associated Press Writer

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - In the 19th century, the Institute of Living treated Christian missionaries who were having trouble readjusting to life in the United States after years abroad.

The center still treats missionaries, but another religious group as well: Roman Catholic priests who have molested children.

Each year, a few priests receive treatment at the institute for what experts call a "disorder of desire."

The private institution founded in 1822 says it is not in the business of "curing" patients of their sexual desire for children.

"This isn't something that goes away, any more than you can change the sexual desire of a heterosexual or homosexual person," said Heidi McCloskey, who directs the treatment program. "What we have to do is figure out how to manage it."

Managing the problem typically involves a stay of three to six months. During the first couple of weeks, patients undergo extensive testing to determine their arousal and behavioral patterns, and to find out if there is a physical explanation for the behavior — a brain tumor, for example.

Patients participate in three group psychotherapy sessions a day and meet one-on-one with therapists two to three times a week. They also take medication, usually antidepressants, which have the side effect of curbing sexual desire.

McCloskey, who estimates she has treated 60 priests, would not discuss any specific cases or allow a reporter to speak with any of the patients.

The nation's Catholic church has been engulfed by a child-molestation scandal in recent months, after it was disclosed that a Boston-area priest suspected of abusing youngsters was moved from parish to parish. The now-defrocked priest, John Geoghan, is in prison for groping a boy in a swimming pool and has been accused of molesting more than 130 children over 30 years.

Since then, dozens of priests across the country out of more than 47,000 nationwide have been suspended or forced to resign.

The Institute of Living started its treatment program for pedophile priests in the mid-1980s, when the problem first received national attention. In 1985, the Rev. Gilbert Gauthe of Lafayette, La., pleaded guilty to abusing 11 boys and admitted molesting dozens more. He served 10 years in prison.

"That was really a watershed event," said the Rev. Stephen Rossetti, a psychologist and sexual abuse consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Now there are numerous centers in the United States and Canada that treat priests for a variety of problems. Some of the centers, such as the Saint Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Md., the Southdown Institute in Ontario, Canada, and the St. John Marie Vianney Program in Dittmer, Mo., treat clergy and other religious leaders almost exclusively, Rossetti said.

Clinicians at the Hartford institute do not decide whether a priest can serve again, but offer a psychological evaluation to the bishop so that he can decide.

It is unclear how many U.S. priests are sent for treatment each year. The bishops' conference said no one tracks that information. The Institute of Living — which serves people of all occupations — treats three to six priests each year, probably a low number for most centers, McCloskey said.

While the treatment centers focus on remedies, the Christian Institute for the Study of Human Sexuality in Chicago concentrates on prevention. Experts in psychology, medicine and theology train seminary instructors to deal with sexuality issues among students.

Dr. James Gill founded the Chicago institute in 1995, and since then 700 seminary instructors have been trained there.

Gill, Rossetti and McCloskey agree that the celibacy rule for priests is not what causes some to abuse children. Experts instead theorize that some priests with tendencies to molest children choose a celibate lifestyle in an attempt to control their behavior, McCloskey said.


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U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops —

Christian Institute for the Study of Human Sexuality —

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