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On Nov. 15, after my arrival at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront for Church Militant's "Bishops: Enough Is Enough" rally, I took a short walk with Stephen Brady, head of the watchdog group The Roman Catholic Faithful, from the Marriott to a seafood restaurant. The Oceanaire, just a block away, was advertised as serving great crab cakes.
Being in Baltimore, I had to get a crab cake or two to make my visit worthwhile!
Upon entering The Oceanaire, I was immediately asked by the maître d' if I was there for "the St. Luke's fundraiser."
"We are assembling the bishops for their fundraiser in a banquet room immediately," he said.
His question left me speechless. Stephen Brady came to the rescue: "We're here for the seafood, and we're really hungry! You can sit us anywhere you like."
Over the course of my 22 years as a priest, I have come to know far too much about the real goings-on at Saint Luke Institute, a psychiatric treatment facility in Silver Spring, Maryland. In fact, for more than six months, I was an inmate of the notorious Church-run facility.
So, how did I end up there?
The locked facility is used, on the one hand, to punish priests who get a little too adamant about upholding Church doctrine and tradition, and conversely, to house known sexual predators within the clergy. It's no spa, although from the glossy placard placed adjacent to the Oceanaire's banquet room, one might have gotten that idea. It has continued to operate through the years despite scandal and abuse, even though its evil has been exposed repeatedly by Church Militant and others, and it even had its own segment in the movie A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing II: The Gender Agenda.
In the winter of 2007, the archdiocese of Chicago sent me there to live for months with homosexual predators despite my having been a victim in my youth — twice over — of homosexual predation. Let's just say I didn't sleep well during that time. Most days, I would purposely take naps in the chapel in front of the Blessed Sacrament — the one place I was assured the creeps inhabiting the place would leave me alone.
But a picture of me found its way into the papers the next day.
It's hard to imagine a priest leading a group of young men in a Rosary as being "out of control" or in a "rage," yet this was the narrative that those in control at the archdiocese immediately pushed, furious over my act of mild protest. The principal person behind painting this false perception was Colleen Dolan, the archdiocese's public relations person at the time.
You would not think, in this day and age, it would be so easy to institutionalize a man. But many bishops throughout the United States are doing exactly that by abusing their priests' promise of obedience.
"Oh, Father so-and-so," a bishop might say, "It's clear to me that you need a little psychiatric care. Recall that you made to me a promise of obedience! If you wish to remain in ministry in my diocese, sign this release form, and I will make certain you are cared for!"
What they really want is to sideline permanently anyone who dares to speak out against the hierarchy's fiscal and spiritual corruption.
In my case, in the fall of 2006, Cdl. Francis George was flat on his back recovering from extensive surgery for cancer. So the underlings in charge of running the archdiocese of Chicago did the dirty work of institutionalizing me as an "angry priest."
But certainly (you might think) it takes so much more than a simple accusation to institutionalize a man! And you would be right. It takes a psychological report. Sadly, it's easy — if you have the funds — to get a damning psychological report. In my case, that report came from Dr. Vincent D. Pisani.
In all honesty, I must give Dr. Pisani the benefit of the doubt. I was never permitted to lay eyes on the report he completed in the fall of 2006 in his Chicago office, so I have no way to know what the report said. All I have from the day I spent with him undergoing tests is the business card I picked up when visiting his office. At least it's proof that I'm not making up this stuff.
Only after I was admitted to St. Luke's did I hear staff alluded to the completed report from Dr. Pisani that I had never been given the chance to see.
One godsend I was able to get my hands on was a neuropsychological evaluation completed by Dr. Christopher Randolph, clinical neuropsychologist. My general practitioner, Dr. Neel French, knew that I had been sexually abused as a youth and that the archdiocese wanted me to go to St. Luke's for "anger management," so he prudently suggested that before I left Chicago I obtain such an evaluation.
Regrettably, I did not get a copy of Dr. Randolph's report until after institutionalization at St. Luke's. I had done the evaluation in Dec. of 2006, but the report was not submitted to the archdiocese and to St. Luke's until Jan. 28, 2007 — the same time I began my unwanted six-month stay.
Of great note in the report is Dr. Randolph's frustration at not receiving any response from Dr. Pisani regarding the results of my psychological tests despite a legitimate and authorized request. As Dr. Randolph's report states:
[Fr. Kalchik] gave me Dr. Pisani's phone number, and when I called, Dr. Pisani refused to provide me with any information despite acknowledging that he had in fact referred Fr. Kalchik for a neurological evaluation. This represents a misunderstanding of HIPAA regulations, but then I asked Fr. Kalchik to have Dr. Pisani forward me any psychological test results. As of Jan. 28, I have not yet received anything from Dr. Pisani, and I cannot hold this report any longer.
Perhaps even more damning is the fact that Dr. Randolph's findings were blatantly ignored by the archdiocese of Chicago, as well as by the staff at St. Luke's. Randolph submitted a copy of his report to both these entities. The following three summary recommendations from the close of his report were ignored:
So, long story short, despite the written medical findings of my neuropsychologist, I was institutionalized for over six months due to my (perhaps politically ill-advised) participation in a Rosary protest.
The truth of life inside St. Luke's is grim. It is a quasi-Catholic institution that exists, as noted, as a locked psychiatric facility to discipline traditional clerics and those priests who are known sexual predators. Needless to say, this was a miserable environment for a victim of sexual abuse.
With the help of Christ, it is possible to get through anything. But even Mass at St. Luke's is only a vague approximation of the beautiful experience one might have at a normal parish.
I tried attending Mass daily, as has been my custom for my entire priesthood. But these Masses were said by the inmates, which included homosexual predators and other priests of the worst sort. As a victim, I experienced mental torture having to receive the Blessed Sacrament from a known predator.
Moreover, having to sit through the Masses these priests said, including their strange and rambling homilies, was hardly conducive to spiritual healing (the supposed purpose of St. Luke's). After a week or two, I quickly came to know which weekday services to avoid entirely.
I also came to realize that the eucharistic species itself was off, making the sacrifice invalid (grape juice was used instead of wine for Mass). I understand that some men there had trouble with alcoholism, but certainly these men could have simply refrained from receiving the Precious Blood or — when they offered Mass — obtained a dispensation from imbibing from the chalice.
Eventually, Cdl. George began to mend from his surgery. When he did, he started to give me regular calls at St. Luke's to check on how I was doing, having heard that I had been sent there. As an inmate, I was envied; few were permitted phone calls by outsiders, and absolutely no one else had a cardinal making calls to him.
I played it to the hilt, especially in small group settings: "Did you hear that Cdl. Francis George called me again last night?" Eventually, I was discharged.
After my time was done there, I had a phone conversation with Dr. Randolph. He reiterated to me what he had stated in his written report: "Fr. Kalchik reacted in a politically ill-advised yet understandable fashion to an upsetting set of circumstances." I had protested a seminary being closed, nothing more. But I had gotten in the way of the wrong men.
There is no real rationale for why this institute continues to exist. For those priests and religious with real psychological problems, each state in this country has excellent facilities run by top-notch specialists in the field. So this place operates for one reason alone: to allow the Church to sweep problems under the rug. I can see the Church maintaining a facility like St. John Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, Missouri, for predators like former cardinal McCarrick, who warrants being locked up. But I cannot fathom why the Church continues to operate a place like St. Luke's.
The placard at the Oceanaire fundraiser for Saint Luke Institute featured the deceptive words, "Strengthening the psychological And spiritual well-being of Catholic clergy and religious." The placard also prominently displayed a set of white Rosary beads — as if Rosaries were part of the therapeutic program there! In my time there, the only one saying Rosaries was me — always by myself — in the chapel. Did I mention the so-called spiritual director at the facility during my stay eventually left the priesthood?
I would like this article to serve as a tribute to all those good priests who went (sometimes unwittingly) to St. Luke's, forced by their ordinary like I was, fully expecting a place to strengthen their "psychological and spiritual well-being," but who encountered the opposite.
These priests are numerous. Just recently, one of these men made it a point of setting up a time to meet me to talk about his own negative experiences.
If you are a priest who was forced into an experience like this, don't hesitate to contact me through Church Militant. The folks there will graciously forward your contacts to me. Like many other evil institutions that have been established in ages past, it probably will take a lawsuit on the part of lay Catholics to shut down Maryland's St. Luke Institute. But there is strength in numbers, and the funds are now becoming available — by the kindness of ordinary churchgoers — to do so.