Saint Luke Institute

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Saint Luke Institute
Founded 1981
Type NGO, 501(c)(3)
Purpose Private mental health treatment and education
  • Washington, D.C.
Region served
United States and International
Sheila Harron, Ph.D.
David Songy, O.F.M.Cap, Psy.D Ph.D.
Affiliations St. Luke's Centre, Manchester, England; Saint Luke Center, Louisville, KY; Caritas Counseling, Baltimore, MD; St. Louis Consultation Center, St. Louis, MO
US$7.4 million (2015)[1]
Remarks Clients include priests, deacons, women and men religious. Lay individuals in outpatient and education programs.

Saint Luke Institute (SLI) is a private, licensed mental health education and treatment facility headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland.[2] The institute primarily serves Roman Catholic priests and religious women and men through integrated psychological and spiritual evaluations, residential care, continuing care, and outpatient therapy. Education in support of healthy life and ministry for those in the Catholic Church is offered online and in-person through SLIconnect. Individuals come to Saint Luke for treatment for a variety of reasons, including depression, addictions, anxiety, boundary issues, and other mental and spiritual health needs. Saint Luke Center in Louisville, KY, offers education, candidate assessments, and individual and group therapy.


Saint Luke Institute was founded in 1981 by Reverend Michael Peterson, M.D., who was openly gay and trained as a psychiatrist at the University of California San Francisco before entering the priesthood.[3][4] SLI originally focused on treating priests with drug or alcohol addiction; in 1983 it began focusing on priests who abused children, following the emergence of the case of Gilbert Gauthe.[3] Peterson tried to bring the attention of the hierarchy to the problem; he co-authored a 1985 report for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops that warned that there is "no hope at this point in time for a cure ... (and the) recidivism rate is so high with pedophilia ... that all controlled studies have shown that traditional outpatient psychiatric or psychological models alone do not work."[3] In April 1987, Peterson died from complications related to AIDS.[4] Petersen's homosexuality tainted the Vatican against SLI in the early 1990s, for example in the case of Anthony Cipolla.[3]

From 1987 to 1992 SLI was led by Msgr. Robert E. Bacher, who had served as Executive Secretary of United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Priestly Formation.[5]

In 1992, Father Canice Connors was appointed as the third president of Saint Luke Institute. A psychologist, Connors was the former president of Southdown, a Church-run psychiatric hospital near Toronto that originally specialized in treating alcoholism and depression, and which Connors had led to focus on treating child molesters using a twelve-step program aimed not at cure, but at recovery, similar to the view of Alcoholics Anonymous toward alcoholism.[6] Connors was himself a victim of child abuse from an older man.[6] Connors’ tenure in the early 1990s coincided with the rise of the child sexual abuse scandal in the US, and Connors was an example of the combative and defensive attitude that the hierarchy took throughout most of this time; Connors' recovery-oriented approach was at odds with the therapeutic mainstream approach to child molesters and was seen as too optimistic and as putting communities at too great a risk for recidivism from repeat offenders.[7]

At the same time, Connors became a leader in national efforts by the Church hierarchy to bridge communications with victims of abuse.[6] These efforts were made difficult by Connors' own mis-steps; he wrote: "It is so rare as to be unreported that a priest has ever used violence in abusing a child. We are not involved with the dynamics of rape, but with the far subtler dynamics of persuasion by a friend. . . . We must be aware that the child still sometimes retains a loving memory of the offender." This is often quoted as an example of how badly the hierarchy misunderstood and denied the situation.[6][7]

In the early 1990s, the treatment program at SLI included in-patient treatment of up to 32 patients and about 12 more who stayed at neighborhood houses owned by the hospital. The people in the program experienced injections of Depro-Provera and individual and group therapy aimed at helping priests regain their celibacy; the latter differed from secular treatment, in which the effort was to get the men to transfer their sexual attraction to adults.[6] SLI also advised bishops across the US about whether priests could be returned to ministry (albeit forbidden from working with children); as of 1994 SLI had treated 137 priests, of which 60 had returned to ministry and 77 were inactive – 20 of those had been imprisoned and some had been defrocked.[6]

From 1996 to 2009 (and again from 2013-2014), Msgr. Stephen J. Rossetti served as president. Rossetti first began working at the institute in 1993. He soon assumed additional responsibilities as the Institute’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. In 2008 SLI set up the Saint Luke Institute Foundation, Inc. and transferred about $3.5 million into it; the purpose of the foundation was to provide financial support to SLI.[8]

Rossetti stepped down as the institute’s president in October 2009 to join the faculty of The Catholic University of America.[9] He was immediately succeeded by Monsignor Edward J. Arsenault, a priest and administrator of the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, who had served as the public face of the hierarchy as the Catholic sexual abuse scandal swept the country.[10] In 2013 allegations arose that Arsenault had stolen money from the Manchester diocese and the estate of a dead priest and billed a hospital for consulting work he never performed, and that he used the money for gifts for himself and a male partner.[10] He was charged with felony theft and pled guilty in 2014; he was sentenced to 4 years and ordered to pay nearly $300,000.[10][11]

In the wake of Arsenault's resignation, Rossetti was asked to return as president.[12] Sheila Harron, Ph.D., was CEO.[13] Rev. David Songy, O.F.M.Cap, S.T.D., Psy.D., a priest-psychologist from Denver, became president on January 1, 2015.[14]

In June 2013, Saint Luke Institute purchased the Saint Louis Consultation Center, which provides outpatient psychological and spiritual treatment, education, and candidate assessments.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Saint Luke Institute, Inc". ProPublica Nonprofit Explorer. Retrieved 19 June 2017. 
  2. ^ "Saint Luke Institute". GuideStar. Retrieved 19 June 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c d Gibson, Gail; Rivera, John (April 11, 2002). "Maryland center claims success treating priests". Baltimore Sun. 
  4. ^ a b "Rev. Michael Peterson, Hospital Founder, Dies". The New York Times. 12 April 1987. 
  5. ^ ”The Rev. Monsignor Robert E. Bacher.” (2008, April 16) Akron Beacon Journal from [].
  6. ^ a b c d e f Berry, Jason (13 June 1993). "Fathers and Sins: An Uneasy Coalition of Activists and Clerics Is Forcing the Catholic Hierarchy to Confront the Problem of Sexually Abusive Priests". Los Angeles Times. 
  7. ^ a b Jenkins, Philip (2001). Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis. OUP USA. pp. 92ff. ISBN 9780195145977. 
  8. ^ "St. Luke Audited Financial Statements" (PDF). Maryland Health Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission. November 2010. p. 4. 
  9. ^ Zimmermann, C. (2009, July 10). “Msgr. Rossetti to step down as head of St. Luke Institute.” Catholic News Service.
  10. ^ a b c "Priest who stole $300k to remain in jail after 1st parole". AP News. April 19, 2016. 
  11. ^ Hayward, Mark (April 22. 2014). "Former Manchester diocese official gets 4 years, ordered to repay $288,000 | New Hampshire". New Hampshire Union Leader.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  12. ^ "Leadership change". Retrieved July 22, 2017. 
  13. ^ "Priest resigns from clergy treatment center amid allegations". Catholic News Agency. May 9, 2013. 
  14. ^
  15. ^

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°0′10″N 76°58′49″W / 39.00278°N 76.98028°W / 39.00278; -76.98028