According to most recent CDC statistics, an estimated 1 in 4 children in America experience maltreatment at some point in their lives.
York Daily Record
In a nearly 900-page grand jury report on abuse by priests in the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania, the name St. Luke’s Institute keeps appearing.
It was where Father Joseph Mueller was sent in April 1986 after he tried to pull down the pants of a teenager on multiple occasions, according to the report.
The Rev. Richard Terdine, too, was sent there after he allegedly patted the genital area of a boy and massaged his back.
In total, at least 30 priests were sent to St. Luke’s Institute, according to the report that goes back decades.
The report released Tuesday, which listed the names of 301 priests in six Catholic dioceses accused of child abuse, names psychiatric treatment centers as part of the issue of dealing with problem priests.
St. Luke’s isn’t the only place where priests were sent. Other mentioned treatment centers include St. John Vianney, a church-run facility in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, where at least 17 priests were sent, and Southdown Institute, a psychiatric facility in Canada where several others took sabbaticals.
The grand jury drew attention to treatment centers as part of the problem.
“(The dioceses) for an appearance of integrity, send priests for ‘evaluation’ at church-run psychiatric treatment centers,” the report states. “(The dioceses) allow these experts to ‘diagnose’ whether the priest was a pedophile, based largely on the priest’s ‘self-reports’,” and regardless of whether the priest had actually engaged in sexual contact with a child.”
Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for St. Luke’s, disagreed with that statement.
“They are actually part of the solution,” Gibbs said. “(St. Luke’s) provided external information to the diocese so they could make the right steps… By sending people to treatment, you’re giving them treatment that will hopefully end the abuse.”
Sister Dorothy Heiderscheit, CEO of Southland Institute, said they are not a church-run facility, and are lay owned and lay operated. She declined to comment further, citing confidentiality issues, but said that they, “continue to pray for all the victims and the families.”
St. John Vianney officials could not be reached for comment.
What is St. Luke’s
The St. Luke’s Institute website lists it as an “international Catholic education and treatment center dedicated to healthy life and ministry for priests, deacons and men and women religious.”
It has several locations, but the priests mentioned in the grand jury report who attended a St. Luke’s facility visited the one in Silver Spring, Maryland, just outside of Washington D.C.
St. Luke’s is a Catholic organization – a distinction that helps the program receive different grants and recognitions – but is a nonprofit organization with a predominantly lay board.
The facility opened more than 40 years ago for the treatment of alcohol and substance abuse, but in the mid-1980s, officials at the institute began to notice a trend, that many alcoholics often had sexual or personality issues in addition to their addiction, so St. Luke’s began treating broader issues.
The institute’s website says it now helps with recovery from, “challenges such as anxiety, addiction, depression, substance abuse, boundary concerns, interpersonal problems, sexual issues and trauma.”
Diagnosis and recommendations
Since the facility opened in 1977, it has treated more than 10,000 people, with sexual abuse being only a small portion of that, Gibbs said.
For all clients, St. Luke’s uses a five-day evaluation that includes an “intensive” look into medical, psychological and spiritual evaluations. Following that, the diocese, the client and St. Luke’s meet to discuss the findings and a recommendation is made from that.
Often, those who are recommended and receive inpatient treatment stay for a six-month period. After that, St. Luke’s sends its recommendation on whether the client should return to ministry.
In some cases, the evaluation can help create a diagnosis based on the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. When those guidelines can’t classify a client under a diagnosis – like pedophilia – they can make additional recommendations that can warn the diocese of questionable behavior.
St. Luke’s is also a mandated reporter in Maryland – if child abuse is suspected or admitted, it must be reported to civil authorities in Maryland.
Cases where the dioceses ignored recommendations
St. Luke’s can make the recommendations, but it’s on the diocese and the client to act on it, Gibbs said.
While the report said sending priests to treatment centers was a key part of the plan to cover up abuse in the church, on several occasions, reports from St. Luke’s to the dioceses were received, but recommendations for service were ignored, according to diocesan notes from the grand jury report:
- In February 1989, an evaluation from St. Luke’s Institute was summarized on an Office of Judicial Vicar letterhead, diagnosing David Luck with paraphilia, a sexual deviation. The institute also said Luck admitted to fantasizing about sex with boys, and recommended Luck not be in ministry or around children. Luck wasn’t suspended until May of 1990.
- In July 1996, St. Luke’s evaluated Edward Kryston of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, saying there was reason for “extreme caution” and that Kryston was at risk and needed much support. It was recommended that he enter residential treatment as soon as possible and it was “very important that he have NO contact with adolescents.” A priest received a second letter from St. Luke’s a month later, that said again it would be wise to avoid ministry focused on junior or high school students. The information was forwarded to Bishop Donald Wuerl. Wuerl met with Kryston in Aug. 31, 1996, and appointed him as a parochial vicar at St. Albert the Great in Baldwin, effective Sept. 23, 1996. He was named a pastor there three years later.
- On Feb. 8, 1988, Father James E. Somma was evaluated from St. Luke’s, and it was recommended that children and adolescents not have free access to Somma’s home, given the sensitivity to priests’ relationships with children. Somma remained in the priesthood until at least 2002. In 2002, one victim reported that from 1984 until 1992, Somma sexually abused him. During that time, when Somma visited his family in Illinois, he came each time with a different boy, Somma said. The victim wrote, “When I visited Pittsburgh (at Somma’s expense) the same boys hung around the rectory with him.”
- In October 1998, the Diocese of Pittsburgh sent Rev. Paul Spisak to St. Luke’s for evaluation. In a letter from the diocese to Wuerl about the evaluation, the findings included having a compulsive sexual disorder and some testing identified Spisak as showing “significant interest in grade school boys.” Wuerl assigned Spisak to residence at St. Mary of Mercy in Cecil. Spisak wasn’t removed from ministry until 2003 after more sexual abuse allegations came to light.
How to fix the problem
The best way to combat sexual abuse is by educating children and parents about the signs of abuse, Gibbs said.
It’s not just an issue with the Catholic church, it’s using the lessons learned in cases like these in everyday life.
“Early reporting is one of the most important, most significant steps that we can take as a culture,” Gibbs said. “If you report early, you can prevent abuse later.”
Many of the biggest changes occurred in 2002, after the issue of child abuse and a larger cover-up came to light in Boston. One big change since then was the church telling those reporting to go straight to local authorities, even if it’s just suspected abuse.
“You don’t have to know for sure,” Gibbs said. ‘It’s your job to flag it and let the professionals look into it… if you suspect it, report it because there’s a child’s life involved there.”
For those seeking child protection tips, Gibbs pointed to the child protection section of the Archdiocese of Washington, which includes several PDFs on safety tips and child protection training.
Child safety tips
The following child safety tips were published by the Archdiocese of Washington, and all information comes from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
- Teach your child their full name, address and home telephone number.
- Teach your child how and when to call 911.
- Instruct children to keep doors locked and not to open doors to talk to anyone when they are home alone.
- Walk or drive the route to and from school with your child, pointing out safe places to go if they need help.
- Remind your child not to play outside alone and to stay with a group on outings.
- Remind your child it is OK to say no to anything that makes them feel scared, uncomfortable or confused. (They expand on this tip later, saying to tell your child, “It’s OK to be rude if someone is making you uncomfortable. Say ‘no,’ walk away and tell a trusted adult.”
- Caution your child never to accept a ride from anyone unless you have told them it is OK to do so in each instance.
- Teach your child how to locate help in public places.
- Help your child learn to recognize and avoid potential risks so they can address them if they happen.
- Teach your child if anyone tries to grab them, they should make a scene and make every effort to get away by kicking, screaming and resisting.
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