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By Rev. Michael X., J.C.L.
The harrowing tale of Rev. Paul Kalchik, a priest of the archdiocese of Chicago who was ordered manu militari by his bishop, Cdl. Blase Cupich, to report to Saint Luke Institute in Maryland for a psychological assessment is astonishing to the reader. Unknown to most Americans, however, the practice of bishops requiring their priests to report to psychological treatment centers is many decades old.
While hierarchs like Cdl. Cupich will publicly describe such forcible mental testing and re-education of their priests as the soothing veneer of "pastoral support so his needs can be assessed" (Statement regarding Rev. Paul Kalchik, Sept. 21, 2018), the reality is that a bishop engaging in such behavior has other designs in mind than simply trying "to help" his priest. He's trying to get the priest to help him.
In April 1998, in a similar case to Rev. Kalchik's, a diocesan bishop ordered one of his priests to report to a "health and wellness" center to undergo a psychological assessment. This order was given in conjunction with a canonical procedure that the bishop initiated to have the same priest removed as pastor of his parish. The priest refused to assent to the order of the bishop because he thought it was "undue intrusion on the canonical right to privacy" (cf. can. 220). The bishop ordered him again to report to the center in question and undergo a psychological assessment. The priest again refused to comply with the bishop's order, requesting instead that he revoke it. The dispute went up the chain of command to the Vatican.
The Congregation for the Clergy, in its decree of Oct. 8, 1998, decided the priest's hierarchical recourse in favor of the priest against his diocesan bishop's immoral order. It ruled:
It is the consistent teaching of the Magisterium that investigation of the intimate psychological and moral status of the interior life of any member of the Christian faithful cannot be carried on except with the consent of the one to undergo such evaluation, as is clearly written about in the instruction of the Secretariat of State in their August 6, 1976 letter to Pontifical Representatives. Therefore, this Congregation concludes that Your Excellency cannot, in this case, under pain of obedience, oblige your priest, the Reverend [N.], to undergo psychological evaluation. [My emphasis]
According to a practitioner's text commissioned and published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops entitled Canonical Delicts Involving Sexual Misconduct and Dismissal From the Clerical State, 2nd Printing, Washington, D.C., 2002, p. 24:
[C]anon law protects an individual's right to privacy (CIC c. 220; CCEO c.23), and curial practice has established that a priest may not be compelled to undergo psychological evaluation or treatment against his will. [My emphasis]
Amazingly, the above opinion referenced in the USCCB text just happens to be seconded by one of Cdl. Cupich's own canon lawyers, Rev. William Woestman, O.M.I., J.C.D., currently listed on the archdiocese of Chicago's website as associate vicar for canonical affairs. One would think that the cardinal-archbishop of Chicago would have relied more upon his own legal experts before dispatching his henchmen and accomplices in ecclesiastical abuse of power — Msgr. Dennis Lyle and Rev. Jeremy Thomas, the archdiocese of Chicago's vicars for priests, and Auxiliary Bishop Mark Bartosic — to do his sinister bidding.
The shocking truth is that, in all likelihood, Cdl. Cupich knew fully well that he had absolutely no right to order Rev. Kalchik to report to Saint Luke for psychological assessment and treatment. Cupich, in all likelihood, played a high-stakes game of power-poker assuming that Rev. Kalchik would blink first, like the vast majority of priests in such circumstances typically do. Only this time, the priest didn't blink. He stood his rightful ground.
In response to Rev. Kalchik having refused to be hauled away to a psychological treatment center for having taken a public stand against the heretical canonization of sodomy exemplified by the rainbow-cross flag, Cdl. Cupich appointed a parochial administrator to govern the priest's parish.
In all likelihood, the archbishop of Chicago will initiate canonical proceedings to remove Rev. Kalchik definitively as pastor of Resurrection parish. In order for Rev. Kalchik to be removed canonically as pastor of his parish, Cdl. Cupich is required to invoke can. 1740 of the Code of Canon Law governing removal of pastors. In having explicitly referenced "pastoral support so that his needs can be assessed" and deputed his auxiliary bishop and the two vicars for clergy of Chicago practically to bag Rev. Kalchik and send him to St. Luke, the cardinal tipped his hand all too clearly as to what canonical tool he intended to use to have the hero-priest canonically booted from his parish: the norm of can. 1741, n. 1 justifying removal of a pastor due to "permanent infirmity of mind or body which renders the pastor unable to fulfill his functions usefully."
Through this canonical optic, one can readily see why bishops pay tens of thousands of dollars potentially per month in order for priests to undergo psychological assessment. Once a priest is appointed pastor of a parish by his bishop, canonically, it is difficult and potentially risky for the reputation of a bishop in Rome to remove a pastor — unless the bishop has grave cause justifying him doing so.
More often than not, bishops typically dupe if not coerce naif priests into going to places like Saint Luke Institute and signing HIPAA medical releases authorizing the medical staff of the clinic to disclose everything they learn from the priest in their "care" to the bishop and his vicars. Instead of the information gathered being used as purported for the priest's "pastoral support," the fishing expedition is most frequently used as ammunition against the priest/pastor whom the bishop has already decided to remove. He just needs evidence against the priest that otherwise could be very difficult if not impossible for the bishop to obtain.
The use by a bishop of highly sensitive psychological test results, sexual history narratives and clinical notes as ammunition against the patient-priest is not only immoral and unethical, it is also patently illegal in canon law. Few, however, are the priests like Rev. Paul Kalchik who have the courage to say "no" to such abhorrent exercises of abuse of power on the part of their bishops. Even fewer are the numbers of priests who employ, proactively or reactively, the canonical and legal means at their disposal to defend themselves against thuggish bishops.
The vast majority of priests either don't know that their bishop has no right whatsoever to coerce them into being psychologically assessed, or, taking the common defeatist route, they make the calculus that they would rather go through the ringer than be persecuted and punished "alternatively" through a host of different ways. Few parents and families of priests, let alone faithful supportive of their vocations and seminary education, would continue to make the financial contributions that they do to diocesan capital campaigns and fundraisers if they knew just what kind of Soviet-style and brutal tactics bishops like Cdl. Cupich can use to achieve their ends, to the great harm of their children who become priests.
Priests need to realize that in this day and age of increasing attacks upon them no longer coming only from without, but now principally from within, anything and everything that they disclose in a psychological assessment being paid for by a diocese can and will one day be used against them. We have attained the weaponization of psychological testing.