Institute for Marital Healing

Resources for Clergy


“It is important that the priest should mould his human personality in such a way that he becomes a bridge and not an obstacle for others in their meeting with Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of humanity," John Paul II, 1992, Pastores Dabo Vobis.

"Priests are the greatest benefactors of humanity," Cardinal Claudio Hummes, Prefect for the Congregation of Clergy, January 8, 2008.


This chapter addresses a number of important issues in priestly life including, accusations against priests, ministry to those with pornography conflicts, loneliness, conflicts in priestly relationships, ministry to those with sexual conflicts, the crisis in the Church and affective maturity in seminarians.

Accusations Against Priests

When minors accuse adults of inappropriate sexual behaviors, the response must be immediate, compassionate, in-depth and should be conducted by skilled criminal justice and mental health professionals.  If the charges are found to be credible, criminal charges are filed against the individual and the charges made public.  To protect the good name of an individual, accusations of inappropriate sexual behaviors are not made public until the evaluation process is completed and the accusations deemed credible.

In our professional opinion the process of evaluating accused priests needs to reevaluated for a number of reasons. The crisis in the Church has led to a new category of non-sexual complaints against priests that are termed "boundary violations."  This terminology grew out of the crisis programs for priests and laity that failed to address the primary issue in regard to the homosexual predation of adolescent males, the primary victims in the crisis and the conflicts in adult males that predisposed them to such behaviors.  Unfortunately, boundary violations are vague and poorly defined and have led to many false accusations being made against priests by staff of parishes, educators and even parents.  The boundary, non-sexual, violation accusations made against priests today are reminiscent of the "repressed" memories made against fathers in the past that were overwhelming found to be false.

This article published on the internet on April 12, 2011 may be helpful in addressing the serious injustices that currently exist in regard to the evaluation of accusations against priests, .

In order for priests to defend themselves when accused, the name of the accuser is essential.  If an accuser insists on remaining anonymous, the validity of the accusation has to be seriously questioned.


False accusations

False accusations against authority figures, coworkers, members of the clergy, and even spouses have been increasing.  The false accusations against priests have been caused primarily by excessive anger and hope for financial gain.  At times, reputations have been ruined, family relationships destroyed, and both  professional and religious lives have been shattered.  Often, the rush to judgment is immediate and the direction of the investigation involves only the accused.  Justice demands that an evaluation against an individual should include a study of the person(s) making the accusation as well.  Such a step is frequently omitted or the evaluation is superficial and fails to explore anger in the accuser when members of the clergy are claimed to have been involved in inappropriate conduct. 

Accused clergy should be allowed to review and respond to the accusations against them before being asked to undergo psychological testing. 

Completed psychological studies at times conclude that the accusations that were made were justified.

When gathering data concerning the accused person, it is important to discover  any possible uncovered motives  that the accuser brought to the incident such as significant anger, control difficulties or desire for financial gain.  Actual case histories have revealed some of the following conflicts in the accuser:

Mental health professionals who are called upon to evaluate priests should report more fully on the background of the accuser and should document how they have determined that the specific accusation against the priest is not a false accusation. The need for such an evaluation process is clear given the extent of the false accusations made in our culture today. 

"Boundary"violation accusations

Priests are being subjected increasingly to false accusations in regard to their having“boundary issues.” These are buzz words arising from the post crisis programs in the Church that failed to identify clearly the origins of the crisis which were the homosexual predation of adolescent male.  These accusations are often made by members of the parish and rectory staff and school teachers and principals.  In our evaluation of such cases the priests were engaging in completely appropriate priestly ministry and behavior toward youth. 

Priestly behaviors incorrectly labeled as grooming and boundary violations including playing sports with youth on the school playground, being present to children they were getting on the buses after school in a parish in which only a small percentage of the children go to mass on Sunday and having a adolescent female visit in an office with an open door in the parish center before the weekly youth meeting. 

The accusers of these priests often struggled with a lack of understanding of grooming behaviors toward minors and confusion and mistrust related to the crisis in the Church.  In others the accusations were motivated by misdirected anger, jealousy and weaknesses in fidelity to the Church.  Unfortunately, even other priests in a parish have enabled and not carefully evaluated accusations of boundary violations against another priest.

The present boundary hysteria against priests is strongly reminiscent of "repressed memory" hysteria of the past, primarily against fathers, that has been rejected by competent mental health professions. The former chair of psychiatry at John Hopkins, Dr. Paul McHugh, has written an important chapter on this topic, "The End of a Delusion: the Psychiatric Memory Wars are Over" in his book, The Mind Has Mountains. Also, Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, Creating False Memories, Scientific American, September, 1997, 277: 70-75 and the Myth of Repressed Memory: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse are important contributions to the scientific literature on this issue.

This serious problem within the Church needs to be addressed so that our priests can be protected in their vital priestly ministry.  Child protection offices need to be educated in regard to the nature of grooming behaviors and the present danger of harming innocent priests who are often asked to step aside from priestly ministry when accusations of boundary violations are made  against them.  Also, the present policy of removing priests from active ministry when an accusation is made against them needs to be re-evaluated and, in our professional opinion, changed.  When accusations are made against teachers, coaches, physicians, spouses, parents, lawyers, etc., they are not asked to step aside from their professional lives or from their homes while an evaluation is undertaken.  There is no reason for priests to be treated differently unless there is an accusation of specific sexual abuse.

False accusations in Los Angeles

In a ten page declaration submitted to the Los Angeles Superior Court, veteran attorney, David Steier, stated that his investigation into the claims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests have uncovered vast fraud and his probes have revealed that many accusations are completely false. Counselor Steier has played a role in over one hundred investigations involving Catholic clergy in Los Angeles.  Mr. Steier stated, "One retired F.B.I. agent who worked with me to investigate many claims in the clergy cases told me, in his opinion, about one-half of the claims made in the clergy cases were either entirely false or so greatly exaggerated that the truth would not have supported prosecutable claim for childhood sexual abuse."

Mr. Steier also added, "In several cases my investigation has provided objective information that could not be reconciled with the truthfulness of the subjective allegations. In other words, in many cases objective facts showed that accusations were false." January 2, 2011

Additional Steier's statements were:

Steier signed and submitted the declaration "under penalty of perjury" November 30, 2010, Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Ministry to those with pornography conflicts

Priests are reporting a marked increase in ministry to those with internet pornography conflicts.  Dr. Peter Kleponis gave two conferences on pornography to 1,800 priests in the Archdiocese of New York in June 2010.  Two webinars with Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons from those conferences is are available on this website at

Also, we recommend the new DVD/CD, Blessed Are the Pure of Heart, which discusses Bishop Robert Finn's excellent pastoral letter on pornography.  Our associate, Dr. Peter Kleponis, also comments on the emotional and character conflicts which influence pornography addiction. It can be ordered at A preview of this DVD is available at, Also, the chapter on the addicted spouse/relative on this site addresses the pornography conflict in married life.

Dr. Kleponis gave two Zenit interviews on the healing of pornography conflicts in June 2010,

Compulsive sexual behavior

Compulsive sexual behavior appears to begin early in life, to have a male preponderance, and to run a chronic or episodic course. It is also commonly associated with psychiatric co-morbidity, typically mood, anxiety, substance use, and personality disorders. Further research is needed to better our understanding of the disorder and improve our ability to develop specific interventions. Kuzma, JM, Black DW. Epidemiology, prevalence, and natural history of compulsive sexual behavior. Psychiatr Clin N. A. 2008 Dec;31(4):603-11.

Origins of compulsive pornography use

In our clinical experience the most common emotional and character conflicts which influence this difficulty are:

Chapters on this site which address sadness, selfishness, anxiety, marital love and sexuality, marital anger and controlling conflicts can be helpful to those with this serious difficulty. In our clinical experience these conflicts can be resolved and, subsequently, the compulsive use of pornography healed. 

Harm to marriage from pornography

Pornography harms marriages and families in numerous ways including:

Damage to young men from pornography

Damage to young women

According to the American Psychological Association, the culture can be infused with sexualized representations of girls and women, suggesting that such sexualization is good and normal. This leads to girls and women feeling bad about themselves: there is evidence that sexualization contributed to impaired cognitive performance in college-aged women, and related research suggests that viewing material that is sexually objectifying can contribute to body dissatisfaction, eating disorders, low self-esteem, depressive affect, and even physical health problems in high-school-aged girls and in young women

In addition to leading to feelings of shame and anxiety, sexualizing treatment and self- objectification can generate feelings of disgust toward one’s physical self. Girls may feel they are ugly and gross.   APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls (2007) 

Damage to spiritual life

"This plague stalks the souls of men, women and children, ravages the bonds of marriage and victimizes the most innocent among us. It obscures and destroys people’s ability to see one another as unique and beautiful expressions of God’s creation, instead darkening their vision, causing them to view others as objects to be used and manipulated. Those who engage in such activity deprive themselves of sanctifying grace and destroy the life of Christ in their souls.”  Bishop Paul S. Loverde’s pastoral Letter on pornography,  Bought with a Price: Pornography and the Attack on the Living Temple of God, 2006, .

Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants, since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2354

Warning signs of pornography use in marriage

Internet pornography healing

The six point recovery plan we have found to be effective includes:

We will soon post a pornography webinar that presents in depth this six point plan in addition to clinical information in the addiction chapter on this website.

Parents have attempted to protect their children in high school and college from pornography by placing a program on their laptops such as Covenant Eyes which sends a weekly report to the parents of the web sites visited. Some college students have been warned that if regular pornography use is found that they will lose their financial support. Those struggling with internet pornography have been helped by having the weekly report from this program sent to a good friend.  Also, problematic sites can be blocked by the use of

For Catholics working with a confessor/spiritual director is important in the treatment plan.  Spiritual directors can assist individuals to grow in trusting the Lord has plan to protect them from loneliness and to strengthen their male confidence.

We have found that teleconferences for men with internet pornography addiction in which anonymity is maintained by using first names are very effective in the treatment process.  In these teleconferences the emotional causes of the conflict are addressed and the twelve steps are employed.  A number of articles that demonstrate the benefits of telepsychiatry are available at Medline, the web site of the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, .

Priests can help in addressing the pornography epidemic by communicating the beauty and sacredness of sexuality in the sacrament of marriage, by warning of the dangers of pornography and compulsive masturbation, by strengthening Catholic fatherhood, by considering developing support groups for parishoners with this conflict that could be based on a teleconference and by criticizing permissive parenting and the contraceptive mentality.

Books that are helpful with this conflict include The Social Costs of Pornography, Clean of Heart, Every Young Man's Battle Guide, Theology of the Body for Teens, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality and Theology of the Body for Beginners , The Courage to be Chaste and the websibes,  We also recommend The Weight of Smut, Mary Eberstadt, First Things, June-July, 2010, Not Your Father's Pornography. Jason Byasse, First Things, 2008. the addiction chapter and the marital infidelity chapter on this website.

A John Paul II Institute for Studies in Marriage and Family, Patrick Williams, wrote in an excellent paper on this topic, “When beauty is recovered as purity and goodness, the person rejects pornography because there is no longer an attraction to it.  The force of true beauty is great and can, even if slowly and imperfectly, replace the corrupt understanding of beauty.  This requires openness to the saving power of God to transform the heart.  The realization of a true understanding of beauty restores the sight of man to overcome his concupiscence, to overcome his use of the other as a mere body.  John Paul II knew this well when he quoted Dostoyevsky, ‘beauty will save the world.’”Pornography and Beauty:  The Understanding of Psychology and the Thought of Wojtlya/John Paul II, 2007,   Pornography and Beauty,

John Paul II's wisdom from Letter to Artists, no.16 is helpful in the struggle against the pornography epidemic, He wrote,“Beauty is a key to the mystery and a call to transcendence. It is an invitation to savour life and to dream of the future. That is why the beauty of created things can never fully satisfy. It stirs that hidden nostalgia for God which a lover of beauty like Saint Augustine could express in incomparable terms: ‘Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you!’”. John Paul II, Letter to Artists, n. 16 (1999)  A true appreciation for love and beauty can contribute to healing the present pornography epidemic.

Parishioners who view homosexual pornography on the internet can be helped by reading about the origins and healing of same sex attractions (PDF format), as well as a statement by a scientific committee on homosexuality and scientific research.  Also, the You tube interview of Dr. Robert Spitzer of Columbia University on the possibility of healing same sex attractions can be informative He comments on his research study of 200 adults who were out of the lifestyle for at least five years which was published in a major peer reviewed journal. Dr. Spitzer led the task force that removed homosexuality from psychiatric diagnostic manual in 1973.

Pope Benedict VXI and Homosexuality

Pope Benedict XVI in his 2010 book, Light of the World (p. 151-3),  wrote, “Sexuality has an intrinsic meaning and direction which is not homosexual. The meaning and direction of sexuality is to bring about the union of man and woman and in this way give humanity  posterity, children, future.  This is the determination internal to the essence of sexuality.  Everything else is against sexualities intrinsic meaning and direction.  This is a point we need to hold firm, even if it is not pleasing to our age.

The issue at stake here is the intrinsic truth sexuality’s significance in the constitution of man’s being. If someone has deep seated homosexual inclinations - and it is still an open question whether these inclinations are really innate or they arise in  early childhood - if, in any case, they have power over him this is a great trial for him, just as other trials conflict other people as well. But this does not mean that homosexuality thereby becomes morally right. Rather it , remains contrary to the essence of what God originally willed.

Homosexuality is incompatible with the priestly vocation.  Otherwise, celibacy  itself would lose its meaning as a renunciation. It would be extremely dangerous if celibacy became a sort of  pretext for bringing people into the priesthood who don’t want to get married anyway. For, in the end, their attitude toward man or woman is somehow distorted, off-center, and, in any case, is not within the direction of creation of which we have spoken. The Congregation for Education issued a decision a few years ago to the effect that homosexual candidates cannot become priests because their sexual orientation estranges them from the proper sense of paternity, from the intrinsic nature of priestly being. The selection of candidates to the priesthood must therefore be very careful. The greatest attention is needed here order to prevent the intrusion of this kind of ambiguity  and to head off a situation where the celibacy of priests would practically end up being identified the tendency to homosexuality."

"Well  that is just one of the miseries of the church (homosexuality in the clergy). And the persons who are affected must at least try not to express this inclination actively, in order to remain true to the intrinsic mission of their office.”

The benefits of Courage participation for those with same sex attractions

A 2009 research study of those with same sex attraction (SSA) who participate in Courage vs. a control group revealed that: