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Priests' treatment facility rocked by suits - at issue: returning abusers to ministry.

At issue: returning abusers to ministry

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - When Father David Holley was charged in a lawsuit last December of having sexually abused two young boys, he became the fifth current or former priest from New Mexico so accused in recent months.

But what drew particular press attention to the cases was that all five priests had reportedly, at one time or another, been treated at a relatively unknown priests' treatment center nestled on 2,000 acres in a canyon in the Jemez Mountains in Jemez Springs, N.M., about 60 miles north of Albuquerque.

The center, run by the Servants of the Paraclete, quickly became the object of local press attention, especially after an attorney, Bruce Pasternack, representing 44 abuse victims - most of whom were boys at the time of the alleged abuse and most Hispanics - called for the center to shut down or leave the state. The charge was only one in a string dealing with alleged priest sexual-abuse incidents, some going back to the 1960s. The Santa Fe archdiocese has been named in a number of the lawsuits for allegedly allowing priests to do |supply' work during or following their stays at Jemez Springs.

According to a lawsuit filed earlier this month by Pasternack on behalf of the victims, the Servants of the Paraclete released pedophile priests into the community despite a 1967 warning by Dr. John Salazar, an Albuquerque psychologist, to the order and to then Santa Fe Archbishop James P. Davis that such priests ought not be released for parish work.

The suit contends that Salazar recommended long term therapy for pedophiles and that a cure would be difficult or impossible to achieve.

Pasternack has also been involved in the widely reported sexual-abuse cases of a former priest, James Porter, now living in Minnesota. Porter was charged with having molested children in Massachusetts, Minnesota and New Mexico in the 1960s and '70s.

According to Pasternack, the Paraclete center "negligently and recklessly" released Porter from psychotherapy, never told police of his offenses, did not try to keep him out of parish work and did not warn local parishes about his behavior.

Santa Fe is the latest U.S. archdiocese to be rocked by priest sexual-abuse scandals, but these cases have drawn particular focus on the debate about what constitutes responsible treatment for known sex violators.

The cases have also drawn attention to the mission and work of the Servants of the Paraclete, an order of only 25 priests and four brothers specializing in attending to priests' needs.

In 1947, Father Gerald Fitzgerald singled out the need to minister to hurting priests. The notion led the Massachusetts priest to a new type of ministry. It also led him to New Mexico, where he founded the Servants of the Paraclete.

For nearly half a century, these priests and brothers treated men with problems ranging from alcoholism to exhaustion, depression to sexual disorders. Many of these disorders go hand in hand, remarked one priest treated by the Paracletes in the late 1980s and who now praises their recovery programs.

Back in the 1940s, New Mexico appeared far removed from larger urban population centers, an ideal place for the quiet and privacy needed for extended recovery. Over the years, the Paracletes have shunned publicity, contending that their patients deserve privacy.

NCR's repeated telephone calls to Father Liam J. Hoare, bead of the order's U.S. program, were not returned. But last year in a rare interview, Hoare told the Associated Press that publicity had complicated work at the Jemez Springs center, where 43 patients reportedly now reside. Sources say the average length of stay for a patient at the center is six to seven months.

In the AP interview, Hoare said most patients being treated at the center are there for mid-life crises, depression, stress-related and other psychological disorders.

"It's erroneous to construe that Jemez Springs is a pedophile center," he stated firmly. Nevertheless, the Paracletes, observers say, appear to be at or near the top of the list when local church officials find themselves faced with assisting priests who face sex charges.

The center was once little more than a retreat house without a professional staff. In 1977 it first offered therapeutic programs. Today, it reportedly employs a staff of 27 professionals, including a psychiatrist and psychologists under contract, and a support staff of 48 employees.

Some members of the Servants of the Paraclete admit the center has made mistakes by allowing sexual abusers to return to parish work. But they insist they were working at a time and in an atmosphere in which little was known about sexual disorders such as pedophilia.

The Paracletes now reportedly oppose returning pedophiles to ministry that would put them in contact with children.

Pasternack says flatly that pedophiles should never return to church work.

He charged that, although "their motives may have been well-intentioned," the Paracletes actions "have ruined hundreds and perhaps thousands of New Mexico children's lives."

Last year, after Santa Fe Archbishop Robert Sanchez came under attack for not having reacted more forcefully in the face of sexual-abuse charges, he created a four-member commission to make recommendations for policies on dealing with priest sexual abuse. The Independent Commission, as it is referred to, is expected to come up with recommendations in the next few weeks.

Father Ron Wolf, chancellor of the archdiocese, said recently that the archdiocese needs to face its problems.

"We have made some mistakes," but there has been no "willful negligence," he said. "Given the information we had at the time, we tried to act appropriately, but I feel we should have still conducted more investigations in terms of what these priests were doing, why they were sent to treatment centers, what those reasons were."

Priest urges critique

of church authority

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Few Paracletes speak publicly about the order and its work. One who does is Father Ray Gunzel, who in addition to his ministry to priests in Albuquerque, N.M., has written on aspects of human sexuality (Celibacy: Renewing the Gift, Releasing the Power, Sheed & Ward). Gunzel's extensive background in psychology includes a fellowship in religion and psychiatry at the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kan.

Gunzel said it is wrong for the Paracletes to "rehabilitate" priests without questioning the system that produces them.

"We should be looking at deeper issues of church structure ... a system that establishes celibate men in positions of power and authority, separating them from the community of the faithful," he said.

"We need to acknowledge our responsibility for the sins of our fathers, not take a defensive, self-protective approach.

"We are basically conditioned to believe the (church) structure is the ultimate authority and that it needs to be protected." That attitude figured into the founding of the Jemez treatment center, which was placed in a remote area because bishops did not want to own up to the existence of "bad priests," Gunzel added.

Gunzel said that, by all standards, the program at Jemez Springs is topnotch. But he said the Paracletes no longer have much to do with the day-to-day operations, a reality the order has not yet come to terms with.

"We could be out of there tomorrow" and not be missed, he said. This situation, as well as allegations about the Paracletes' past, challenge the order to rethink its purpose and vision for the future, Gunzel said.

"I see possibly a whole new ministry for the Paracletes, which may or may not include Jemez Springs as a treatment center," he said.
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Title Annotation:includes related article; Servants of the Paraclete center; priest pedophiles
Author:Martinez, Demetria
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Feb 26, 1993
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