by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, 25 September 2018
What I am about to post, read carefully.
Over the last few months I have been contacted by diocesan priests (and a religious) who were being sent by their bishops (superior) to be “evaluated” at one of these psych clinics for clergy. The most (in)famous of these in these USA is St. Luke’s in Maryland.
The pattern is alarmingly similar. The priest has some sort of dust up in the parish (or wherever). For example, a woman gets angry because he preached about contraception, someone claims that he as “boundary issues”, somebody on the staff says that he is “cold” or “remote”. They complain to the bishop. The bishop tells the priest – pressures the priest – to go for “evaluation”. With great trepidation the priest obeys (an important point). He goes for a week or two of evaluation, at the end of which he is told that there isn’t much wrong with him. He goes home, thinking that all is well. Shortly thereafter, he is called in to the bishop’s office, where he is told that the clinic sent the bishop a very different assessment. The priest is diagnosed – and it is always about the same – narcissism and borderline bi-polar. The bishop then really puts the screws to the man to go back that clinic for “treatment”. He is told for three months or so. But when he gets there, and they confiscate his mobile phone and even his shaving kit, and start pumping him full of drugs and monitoring/controlling email, he is told that he’ll be there for six months. The horror show begins.
A common characteristic of the priests: they are conservative or traditionalists. I have a friend who was forced into one of these places and, when we could talk on the phone, he told me that I wouldn’t believe the number of conservative men there and what they were reading. And the fact that they are conservative is important, because conservatives tend to obey. This is one of the reasons why bishops in past have slammed down hard on conservatives but they let libs do any damn thing they want. Even if they are slightly inclined to be conservative themselves, they are moral cowards. They know that libs will fight them like hell and they don’t want the fight. But they can do anything they want to conservatives because they know that they tend to obey.
There are some clergy who really do need help. However, bishops are using this process as a way of stomping out conservative or traditionalists in their dioceses. And I have a suspicion that this is coordinated. Why? In the last year, there was a period of a couple months in which several priests contacted me to tell me that they were going into the psych slammer at the order of their bishops. Before that, I hadn’t had any such call or contact. It suddenly started, as if some bishops had, among themselves, decided that this was a good way to get rid of troublemakers. It is almost as if, a one of their meetings, over evening cocktails, one of them grumbled about having this really traditional priest who was spreading his ideas about Latin and Communion rails. One of his pals, pouring another, piped up saying, “I’ll tell ya what works. Send him to St. Lukes for ‘evaluation’. They’ll send back something that can be used against him, one way or another. It’s expensive, but it works.” “Hey, thanks Bill! That’s a good idea. I’ll also tell Fatty and Dozer.* They’ve got these guys too.”
Rare and rare and rare as hen’s teeth are bishops who openly back their conservative priests.
Mind you… sending a guy for “treatment” is a really expensive endeavor. A month in one of these slammers costs a diocese many 10ks of bucks (of YOUR money). But they must figure that it is worth it, if they can intimidate priests into towing the line. Think of the quip of Voltaire on hearing that the Brits after the Battle of Minorca shot Admiral Byng on the deck of his own ship “to motivate the others”. As he put it in Candide, “Dans ce pays-ci, il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres … In this country, it is good idea to kill an admiral once in a while to encourage the others.”
That’s what bishops are doing to priests. Slam down hard with this “treatment” on a priest and the rest of the presbyterate will get the message. In the long run, though it is expensive, it’s ideologically worth it.
Today I read at Dreher’s page a bit of a letter from a priest about this very topic. Dreher posted about The Kalchik Shakeup in Chicago. Kalchik was pastor at a parish where people burned an infamous “gay” banner against the wishes of Card. Blase “Rabbit Hole” Cupich. Kalchik was told that he had to get out of the parish, with minutes notice, or he would be arrested and that he was supposed to go for “evaluation”. Kalchik chose, instead, to go into hiding. I’m told that a prominent Catholic website will have an interview with Kalchik soon.
Here’s what I read at Dreher’s. Read and weep.
A parish priest e-mails:
There is nothing that the laity can do to protect priests. Bishops have total authority over us. We can certainly walk away. We can leave. But Kalchick is a great example of what happens when a priest stands up to his bishop’s agenda. He’s probably done as a priest.
He can submit to St. Luke’s and get the evaluation, but St. Luke’s has an alliance with the bishops as well. It’s the bishops who pay the bill. When a priest goes there the priest must sign a release for everything he discusses to be turned over to the bishop and the diocese. So how is he supposed to deal with any real psychological issues he might have knowing that the data is going to be sent back to the bishop and put into files or even potentially released or used against him? Point being, the priest isn’t free. It’s a coercive environment. It’s rigged against priests and the information can be used by bishops to continue to manipulate those priests for years to come, all under the guise of “I just want Fr. X to be healthy.” What they are really after is reconditioning priests to act within a particular safe metric to avoid bad publicity or cause problems. Sounds a bit Orwellian doesn’t it?
Another side of this is that bishops have to hold liability insurance on their priests and if the priests have some kind of HR problem or Occupational Problem in their parish, the insurance companies are demanding bishops send them to places like St. Luke’s for a kind of “reconditioning therapy” that they don’t actually need. The priests are not actually in any kind of need of psychological assistance, but for the Diocese to continue to have the covered with liability insurance the insurance company puts pressure on the bishop for them to demonstrate that they have taken measures to lessen liability. A St. Luke’s program of 6 months of incarceration and therapy with 5 years of outpatient programming is just such a program. All of this goes into the priest’s file and is held against him the rest of his career to be trotted out any time he gets out of line.
Notice, none of this has to do with the abuse of children. Perhaps some with moral failure or bad decisions. Maybe decisions that would cause a layperson to lose their job. But in the priesthood, you get the shame of six months of incarceration in a lock-down facility and forced psychological treatment that even these facilities know you do not need. But they participate in the sham because it’s big revenue and they are cashing in on the bishop’s need to cover their liability. This is happening in large numbers throughout the country to priests.
This whole business bothers me enormously, to the point that a couple weeks ago I had an unsettling dream about creating a haven for priests, like a prepper redoubt, in Montana or some such place. They would be funneled to the redoubt, set up like a Camaldolese community, through a kind of underground railroad. I digress.
My point is that this is a real problem. Be on the watch for it.
This is what Communists did in the former Soviet union. If a person dissented, he must be mentally ill. Kill or send most to the camps, but diagnose some with “sluggish schizophrenia” and “treat them”… pour encourager les autres. Word gets around what’s in store for dissenters.
I find it interesting that Fr. Kalchik fought back. Especially in this time.
As for a priest friend of mine who was in one of these places? After a few months of “treatment” I barely recognized his conversation, his focus was shot, and his words were slurred.
Wanna fight back?
Send your diocesan donations to the TMSM. Money and bad press are about the only things some of these people understand.
Maybe it is time to cut off all funds and channel them only to trustworthy traditional causes.
*Long time readers may recognize the reference to “Fatty” as being Bp. Fatty McButterpants of the fictional Diocese of Libville, neighbor to the Diocese of Black Duck. “Dozer” is the nickname of Fatty’s old classmate, Bp. Antuninu Ruspa of Pie Town, who has a penchant for demolishing traditional churches and building, if anything – he sells properties as often as possible – worship spaces that look like municipal airports or the lobbies of trendy boutique hotels. Fatty’s loathsome and somewhat deformed dog Chester once, wisely, bit “Dozer” in the inside of the thigh, rather high up, requiring a humiliating visit to the ER and the ministrations of thick-forearmed nurse who had a lot of questions. As it turns out, Bp. McButterpants used the psych strike on a priest of Libville, the pastor of St. Christine the Astonishing, Fr. Joe Włotrzewiszczykowycki-Brzęczyszczykiewic. Fr. JoWo tried to get something good going at his parish for the many suffering liturgical refugees from Fr. Bruce Hugalot’s Sing A New Faith Community Into Being Faith Community. Fr. JoWo fled to the Diocese of Black Duck, where Bp. Noble gave him a safe haven without an “evaluation”. He often helps Msgr. Zuhlsdorf at St. Ipsidipsy in Tall Tree Circle for Solemn Masses and confessions while taking care of his own budding St. Philip Neri Oratory of Mary Cause of Our Joy.
I am always blown away by the goodness of so many of you readers. I received this via email:
If you believe this priest’s life might be in jeopardy, we can begin with him. I live 3 hours from Chicago in ___. I work full time but am single with no obligations. I don’t have much, but I am close to a dozen home schooling families who would love to have him. […] He would be safe out in ___. I am mildly familiar with the methods of concealment; […]. I could drive to Chicago with a rental, pick him up, drive him here. Safely deposit him with people who are, shall we say, familiar with the situation in the Church.
Anyway, I sound nuts to myself writing this, but if it’s in your heart that this needs to be done, I may be able to help.
Some sharing options…