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TEXT

Clinicians' letter to Bishop Lennon

1/22/2003

What follows is the text of a letter sent by 83 therapists, scholars, clergy, and others concerned about sexual abuse to Bishop Richard G. Lennon, the apostolic administrator of the Boston archdiocese:

Dear Bishop Lennon:

We the undersigned are clinicians, authors, clergy, and/or researchers who have been active in the area of psychological trauma, including childhood sexual abuse, for many years. We are writing from deep concern about the decision of the Archdiocese of Boston to depose therapists with whom you have contracted to provide clinical services to adult survivors of sexual abuse by priests.

The psychotherapist-patient relationship and the healing process therein are successful only to the extent that the therapy is impervious to disruptive impingements from others. In order to heal, any patient must be assured that conversations taking place in the consultation room are confidential. Under ordinary circumstances, confidentiality is broken only if the patient intends to harm herself/himself or someone else, and/or if the patient discloses that a minor is being abused or neglected. Most therapists make these exceptions to confidentiality clear to a patient early on. Although confidentiality is always sacred, it is even more so with patients whose bodies, minds, and souls already have been betrayed by loved and trusted figures in their lives.

We who are experienced in working with former victims of sexual abuse must assert that your willingness to allow your attorneys to invade the confidentiality of a survivor's psychotherapeutic treatment by deposing his or her therapist is an act of reabuse. In June of this year in a nationally televised speech in Dallas, Bishop Wilton Gregory, the president of The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, invited all victims of sexual abuse by clergy to come forward, and he pledged the commitment of the American Catholic Church to help these members of the faithful heal. He said, ''If there is anyone who has been a victim of sexual abuse by a priest or representative of the Church in the United States and has not yet reported this fact, I ask you to report it to the bishop of your diocese and to the appropriate civil authorities. Though this may be a very difficult step for you, the Church does love you and wants to help you find justice and healing.'' Many dioceses, including Boston, made similar pleas. Often, victims coming forward have been offered psychotherapy as one reparative gesture provided by the Church. Many victims, perhaps hoping to restore their faith in the compassion and good will of the Church they still love, indeed stepped forward and availed themselves of the promised assistance. At the time, they were not informed that if they also were involved in litigation with the Church, their therapy conversations would be subject to depositions. Is it not painfully apparent to you that to call forth victims whose therapies you then allow to be penetrated and dismantled reenacts the seduction and abuse perpetrated by the original abuser?

In addition to revictimizing already traumatized victims of clergy abuse, subjecting therapists to depositions also traumatizes them. It is a shock for any therapist to experience the invasion of his or her consultation room by attorneys seeking information about a patient that may be used to discredit him or her in legal proceedings. Moreover, responding to subpoenas, preparing for and enduring depositions, and later perhaps having to testify in court removes the therapist from his or her own practice, thus disrupting the treatments of even more patients. Finally, in most cases, the therapy with the trauma survivor will be permanently harmed by the intrusion of the legal system.

Those who are in relationship with trauma survivors sometimes experience themselves as victims while survivors can end up subjectively feeling like abusers. While the Archdiocese of Boston has a legal right to pursue the depositions of therapists treating abuse survivors in litigation with the Church, it is crucial for Church officials to remember that these suits have emerged from the sexual abuse of minors by priests and, often, only after years of stonewalling efforts by the hierarchy. We hope that you will reconsider your decision to retraumatize the already broken members of your flock and will choose to pursue a pastoral rather than corporate and counter-litigious path.

In 1956, Chairman Mao launched in China the ''Let One Hundred Flowers Bloom'' campaign. In it, he asked that the citizens of China freely discuss their reactions to his regime. It was all a ruse. As people gratefully reached for what they perceived to be an outstretched hand, many ended up slaughtered or imprisoned. To invite adults who were tragically betrayed by priests and by your predecessor bishops to come forward to be helped, only to betray them again, is cruelly reminiscent of Mao's tactics. Please do not do this to your wounded faithful.

Signed,

Mary Gail Frawley-O'Dea, Ph.D. Executive Director, Trauma Treatment Center, Manhattan Institute for Psychoanalysis; Co-author, Treating the Adult Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse; Invited speaker, Semiannual Meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Dallas, June 2002.

MaryAnn Akers-Chamberlain, MA, NCC, LPC. Partners in Healing. Peoria, IL.

Judith L. Alpert, Ph.D. Professor of Applied Psychology, New York University; Editor, Sexual Abuse Recalled. New York City.

David Brennan, MSW, LICSW. Psychotherapist, Private Practice. Boston, MA.

Bill Burmester, MA. Marriage and Family Therapist; Training Leader, Relational Psychotherapy with Male Survivors, University of California, Berkeley; Clinical Member, MaleSurvivor. Berkeley, CA.

Margaret A. Carr, Ph.D. Private Practice; Candidate, New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. Princeton, NJ.

James Cassese, CSW. New York City.

Andrea Celenza, Ph.D. Consultant on clergy sexual misconduct to Episcopal Diocese of Northeastern United States, Northeast Diocese of Catholic Churches, Conference of American Rabbis. Lexington, MA.

Rev. Maureen Chase. Littleton, MA.

Richard A. Chefetz, MD. President, International Society for the Study of Dissociation; Faculty, Washington School of Psychiatry; Founding Member and Faculty, Institute of Contemporary Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis; Faculty, Modern Perspectives in Psychoanalysis, Washington Psychoanalytic Foundation. Washington, DC.

Christine A. Courtois, Ph.D. Psychologist; Cofounder, Clinical and Training Director, The CENTER: Posttraumatic Disorders Program at the Psychiatric Institute of Washington; Independent Practice. Washington, DC.

John F. Crowe, MS, CRC, BCSA. Co-director, Sexual Assault Mental Health Project, Mental Health Association of Ulster County, Inc. Albany, NY.

Jody Messler Davies, Ph.D. Psychoanalyst; New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy; Co-author, Treating the Adult Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse. New York City.

Muriel Dimen, Ph.D. Psychoanalyst; New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. New York City.

Peter Dimock, MSW, LICSW. Faculty, School of Social Work, University of Minnesota; Author, Adults Molested as Children: A Survivors Guide for Men and Women. St. Paul, MN.

Anne Marie Dooley, CSW, BCD. Private Practice. New York City.

Martha Douty, BSW, MSW Candidate. Worcester, MA.

Ann Drake, Psy.D. Private Practice. Gloucester, MA.

Kathleen M. Dwyer, BA. Institute for Health and Recovery. Cambridge, MA.

Leslie R. Fenn, M.D. Community Psychiatry, Somerville, MA; Staff Psychiatrist, Cambridge Health Alliance of Harvard Medical School.

The Reverend Anne C. Fowler. Episcopal Priest, Rector, St. John's Episcopal Church, Jamaica Plain, MA.

Howard R. Fradkin, Ph.D. Psychologist; Chairperson, MaleSurvivor Retreat Committee. Columbus, OH.

David Friedman, Psy.D. Psychologist, Rockland County Child & Adolescent Services; Private Practice. West Nyack, NY.

Mary L. Froning, Psy.D. Psychologist; Former President, District of Columbia Psychological Association. Washington, DC.

Glen O. Gabbard, MD. Professor of Psychiatry, Baylor College of Medicine. Houston, TX.

Richard B. Gartner, Ph.D. President, MaleSurvivor; Founding Director, Sexual Abuse Program, William Alanson White Institute; Author, Betrayed as Boys. New York City.

Mark Gianino, MSW, LICSW. Private Practice; Adjunct Professor, Simmons College School of Social Work. Boston, MA.

Esther Giller. Chief Executive Officer, Sidran Institute for Traumatic Stress Education and Advocacy. Baltimore, MD.

Marc Gilmartin, MA. Past Membership Chair, MaleSurvivor. Bellevue, WA.

Arnold Goldberg, MD. Cynthia Harris Professor of Psychiatry, Rush Presbyterian St. Luke's Hospital. Chicago, IL.

Virginia Goldner, Ph.D. Psychoanalyst; Clinical Professor of Psychology, Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies, Adelphi University. New York City.

Douglas Goldschmidt, CSW, Ph.D. New York City.

Ellen T. Goodman, LICSW. Faculty, Simmons School of Social Work. Jamaica Plain, MA.

Judy Gotthoffer, BCETS, CSW. New York City.

Sue Grand, Ph.D. Psychoanalyst; Faculty, New York University Post-Doctoral Program; author, The Reproduction of Evil. Englewood, NJ.

Sandra L. Green, MSSW, CSW-R. Co-Director, Trauma Treatment Center, Manhattan Institute for Psychoanalysis. New York City.

Frances K. Grossman, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus, Boston University. Boston, MA.

Valentina Harrell, Ph.D. Psychologist; Psychoanalyst. Affiliated with Columbia University and William Alanson White Institute. New York City.

Thom Harrigan, LICSW. Co-director, Next Step Counseling and Training. Jamaica Plain, MA.

Elizabeth Hegeman, Ph.D. Faculty, John Jay College of Criminal Justice and William Alanson White Institute. New York City.

Richard Hoffman. Writer-in-Residence, Dept. of Writing, Literature, and Publishing, Emerson College. Boston, MA.

William C. Holmes, MD, MSCE. Assistant Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology; Senior Scholar, Center for Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Philadelphia, PA.

Gloria B. Horvitz, LICSW. Private Practice. West Roxbury, MA.

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D. Psychologist; Adjunct Associate Professor, New York University; author, "The Role of Trauma and Dissociation in the Creation and Reproduction of Gender." Private Practice. Brooklyn, New York.

John W. Jones. Marriage and Family Therapist; Supervisor, Counseling Department, California Pediatric and Family Services. Pasadena, CA.

Maurine Kelber Kelly, Ph.D. Faculty, Advanced Psychotherapy Training Program, Washington School of Psychiatry; Faculty, Doctoral Program, Psychoanalytic Psychology, George Washington University; Senior Staff Consultant, Adele Lebowitz Center for Youth and Families; Private Practice. Silver Spring, MD.

Eugene C. Kennedy, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Loyola University of Chicago; author, The Unhealed Wound: The Church and Human Sexuality. Chicago, IL.

Sue Kolod, Ph.D. Psychologist; Psychoanalyst; Faculty and Supervisor, William Alanson White Institute, New York City.

Beth Lawrence, CSW. Co-Director, Trauma Treatment Center, Manhattan Institute for Psychoanalysis. Brooklyn, New York.

Mike Lew, M.Ed. The Next Step Counseling; author, Leaping Upon the Mountain: Men Proclaiming Victory Over Sexual Child Abuse. Brookline, MA.

Donna Robin Lippman, M.S. Executive Director, Incest Awareness Foundation; Director, Incest and Rape Recovery Center. New York City.

David Lisak, Ph.D. Editor, Men and Masculinity; Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts. Boston, MA.

John McDargh, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Religion and Psychology, Department of Theology, Boston College. Boston, MA.

Nancy McWilliams, Ph.D. Psychoanalyst; Professor, Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology, Rutgers University; Private Practice. Flemington, NJ.

Kenneth Maguire, BA. Clinical Psychology Doctoral Candidate and Masters Candidate in Human Sexuality, Widener University. Stewart Manor, New York.

Charles G. Martel, LICSW. Boston, MA.

Marcie Mitler, M.Ed. Psychotherapist, Sexual Abuse Specialist, Cambridge. MA.

Mikele Rauch, M.A., LMFT. Membe, MaleSurvivor. Waban, MA.

Philip A. Ringstrom, Ph.D., Psy.D. Senior Training Analyst, Supervising Analyst, Faculty, Board of Directors Member, The Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis. Encino, CA.

Geraldine Russo, CSW. New York City.

Mark T. Sammons, Ph.D. Psychologist. Adelphi University Postdoctoral Program. New York City.

Emily Samuelson, Ph.D. The Soaring Project: Thriving Beyond Childhood Sexual Abuse. Towson, MD.

Linda T. Sanford, LICSW. Boston College Graduate School of Social Work; author, Strong at the Broken Places and The Silent Children.

Joan E. Sarnat, Ph.D., ABPP. Psychoanalyst; author, "Working in the Spaces Between Psychoanalytic and Trauma Approaches to Stories of Abuse." Berkeley, CA.

Bert H. Schaffner, M.D. Medical Director, HIV Service and Supervising Analyst, William Alanson White Institute. New York City.

Murray David Schane, MD. Faculty, Masterson Institute for Psychoanalytic Psychology. New York City.

Jim Schmidt. Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Sidran Institute, Traumatic Stress Education and Advocacy. Baltimore, MD.

Dennis G. Shulman, Ph.D. Founding Director, The National Training Program in Psychoanalysis; Professor, The Kollel Program of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Demarest, NJ.

Nancy B. Siegel, MSW. Leadership Council for Mental Health, Justice, and the Media. Bala Cynwyd, PA.

Joyanna Silberg, Ph.D. Author and editor, The Dissociative Child., Baltimore, MD.

Zoya S. Silve, Ed.D. Private Practice. Cambridge, MA.

Ken Singer, LCSW. Member, MaleSurvivor. Lambertville, NJ.

A.W. Richard Sipe, MS. La Jolla, CA.

Josef Spiegel, Ph.D. Wellsprings Psychotherapy; Author, The Sexual Abuse of Males: The SAM Model of Theory and Practice. Asheville, NC.

Jim Struve, LCSW. Psychotherapist; Member, MaleSurvivor. Salt Lake City, UT.

Ellis Waingrow, MSW, LICSW. Newton, MA.

Gillian Walker, ACSW. Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, New York University Medical School; Former Co-Director, The Incest and Family Program, Ackerman Institute for the Family; Director, Unique Minds Program, New York University Child Study Center. New York City.

Ann Hagan Webb, Ed.D. Psychologist. Associate Director, South Shore Counseling Center.

Ned Weisman, LICSW. Clinical Director, Centerpoint; Private Practice. Massachusetts.

Elaine Westerlund, Ed.D., DABPS, DAPA. Cofounder and Director, Incest Resources, Inc; author, Responding to Incest: In Memory of Nancy (commissioned and published by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts) and Women's Sexuality After Childhood Incest. Cambridge, MA.

Charles Whitfield, MD. Specialist in trauma psychology. Atlanta, GA.

Polly Young-Eisendrath, Ph.D. Psychologist; Psychoanalyst; Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry, University of Vermont Medical College. Worcester, VT.

Gadi Zohar, MFT. Member, MaleSurvivor. San Francisco, CA.

This story ran on page A10 of the Boston Globe on 1/22/2003.
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