Only Half of Veterans with PTSD Are Treated

Some football programs at both collegiate and high school levels have a tradition: at the end of the national anthem, when the home team scores or wins the game, a small cannon is fired at a safe distance behind one of the end zones in celebration. One evening, a young man was catching up with old colleagues and mentors during a match between his alma mater and a local rival. This young veteran had just returned from a tour in Iraq. He stood at attention and saluted the flag as the national anthem played over the speakers. The anthem ended, the cannon was fired, the players took their positions on the field and the crowd took their seats on the bleachers. But the young man remained standing, hands at his sides, frozen still, his skin pale as the echo of the cannon reverberated throughout his body, causing him to relive memories and moments from which he just returned. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that can develop after experiencing shocking, scary, or dangerous events. U.S. veterans and active duty service members make the ultimate sacrifice to protect the nation, with absolutely no guarantee that they’ll return alive or unscathed. They leave their families and friends, miss the weddings of their siblings or the births of their own children in order to step up and stand against the forces that wish to do them and our way of life harm. But, in doing so, they put themselves at risk of developing this disorder. As we honor our veterans for their sacrifice and bravery, we may forget that -- even though they survived the trenches, jungles or deserts -- not everyone returns home whole. The reality is that, despite returning to civilian life, the trauma they witnessed is never far from their minds, making their transition a greater challenge and even putting their physical and mental health in greater jeopardy.   According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, up to 20 percent of veterans who saw combat in Iraq and Afghanistan develop PTSD or major depression in a given year, as well as experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Additionally, 12 percent of men and women who fought in the Gulf War have developed PTSD, and an estimated 30 percent of Vietnam veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime. Among the number of veterans who return from war with mental health issues and PTSD, only about 50 percent will actually receive the mental health treatment they need. Both active duty service members and veterans face great barriers to mental health treatment issues that make them hesitant to pursue treatment, including wait times, demographics and logistics regarding traveling distances, age and gender. “[My therapist] kinda encouraged me to get enrolled in the VA, which I had not done for five years after retiring from the military,” said Christopher Provost of Colorado while speaking with StoryCorps. “I didn’t realize how angry I was when I got out of the military. That was a big thing... in dealing with the post-traumatic stress." Provost joined the National Guard to ski and compete in biathlons -- a sport that combines cross-country skiing and target shooting. He served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, but he didn’t consider enrolling for VA benefits until about five years after retiring from the military. “I was hearing about the shortage and the backlog,” he said, “and, you know, all the amputees that weren’t getting their appointments, and, you know, people killing themselves in VA parking lots because they couldn’t get their therapy appointments. And I’m like, I’m fine. I’ve got a job, I’ve got a house over my head, I’ve got a car. I’m doing fine. They need help before me. And so I was kinda putting...I guess it was a displacement.”   According to Benjamin Keyes, Ph.D., Ed.D., Director for Center for Trauma and Resiliency Studies at Divine Mercy University, there are five symptoms of PTSD. Unstable moods and reacting to certain triggers are the most easily recognizable. “I had a friend in college,” he said, “who had just gotten back from Vietnam. Whenever we heard a helicopter approach or fly over, he would hide under a desk or do whatever he could to take cover." Other symptoms include self-isolation, hyper arousal and intrusion of consciousness, in which they are stuck on a thought or memory from the battlefields that they can’t shake or push from their minds.   “Though some cases are similar in symptom and description, all cases are different for each individual,” Devon Alonge, a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts student at George Mason University. Devon served as an armourer specialist for the U.S. Army, and deployed to Iraq in 2011. “For myself,” Alonge continued, “having been in a combat zone for six months, I deal with some issues regarding anxiety and, in some cases, claustrophobia.”   Shame is an incredibly critical factor in treating veteran PTSD. Some may feel embarrassed over their service-related mental disabilities, whereas others experience shame over needing to seek mental health treatment and are afraid of being seen as weak, or that they should still be fighting with their comrades-in-arms, but have gone home instead. When the shame is not addressed, it leaves our veterans in danger of falling into alcoholism and substance abuse, and even lead them to commit suicide. According to a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, veterans with PTSD have higher rates in suicide and suicidal behavior. Approximately 20 veterans commit suicide every day. “When soldiers return home from war, there is a sense of relief,” said Dr. Keyes, “But then they feel a sense of guilt about being home while others are still in the fields fighting. As they adjust to civilian life, they’ll feel that they should still be fighting in the war with the people they left behind.”   Dr. Norman Hooten has experienced this first hand. A full-time health care provider who helps veterans fight substance addiction, non-cancer related chronic pain and PTSD, Hooten served for over 20 years in the U.S. Army and special forces before retiring as Master Sgt. Norman “Hoot” Hooten, and fought in the Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia, which was later chronicled in the book and film, Black Hawk Down (Sgt. Hooten was played by actor Eric Bana in the film).   He experienced losing someone struggling with a mental health disorder when a platoon sergeant he knew early in his career committed suicide after struggling with PTSD and substance abuse. “In the military, we never want to lose people, but it becomes understandable when we lose people on the battlefield," Hooten said to the Military Times. "A generation of veterans have survived the horrors of war to come home and commit suicide. I do not want to accept this. I want to do everything I can to make a dent in this problem. Even if this is about saving one person.” It’s highly important -- and the very least we can do -- for us to ensure that necessary mental health treatments, both clinical and spiritual, are available to our vets and service members when they return home, and that starts with the relationships they build both in service and in life. Research has shown that kindling and rekindling relationships are critical to promoting change in those who are suffering and need help. These are the first stepping stones toward building hope -- especially amongst veterans who served together -- and are the first line of defense in identifying the signs of mental illness or PTSD. “Sometimes we get too comfortable not communicating with one another for a year or more because we tend to always think we are all close and fine," said Dr./Sgt. Hooten. "But that one phone call every now and then, or that meet-up for a fishing trip might make the difference in saving a life.” Divine Mercy University’s co-director for the Online Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Dr. John West, has had the privilege of working with many veterans and soldiers returning from war who had survived traumatic events in battle, including one man whose vehicle was blown up during a firefight, breaking his back. “When I first started seeing him,” he explained, “he was completely hunched over, walking with a cane. His back was broken. His life was broken. He was just filled with despair and hopelessness.” At one of their sessions, the man brought a baseball because he loved baseball so much, and asked Dr. West to hold onto it for him. From then on, during each session of working through the trauma and adjustments, Dr. West handed him that baseball as a source of comfort while they spoke. After a few months, he began to heal, both physically and emotionally. “His whole life started to be reconstructed,” Dr. West said. “By the time we were finished -- when he had been able to move past the trauma, adjust to this new phase of his life and regain his dignity -- he was ready to move on. As he was walking out the door after our last session, he had that baseball in his hand. But he stopped at the door, looked back and tossed it to me saying ‘someone else needs this more than I do now.’”   Divine Mercy University is one of the nation’s leading graduate institutes that trains students in addressing and treating PTSD and other trauma-related disorders, with the specific mission to help patients flourish. “You can recover,” said Dr. Keyes. “Our students are trained to think about how people can flourish in their lives, and how they can help our veterans deal with emotions they suppressed while in combat zones. Having that as an overlay is a quality difference in treating PTSD.” Learn more about what you can do to help those around you suffering from PTSD or other trauma. (The Effects of Trauma)

Healing Sexual Trauma is Possible

The difficult reality of sexual abuse and its traumatic consequences recently returned to the front of public awareness. It’s at times like these that education regarding the impact of sexual abuse can be the difference in the beginning of the path toward healing. It's important to remember that talking about sexual abuse is difficult. Human sexuality is a great gift, giving us the capacity -- because we have bodies -- to experience the world, express ourselves and eventually, our love, through which we become a gift to others. A violation of human sexuality can have a huge impact on the psyche and relationships to others, the world and most importantly one’s sense of self. When something so innate, existential and sacred to the person has been violated, confusion, self-blame and withdrawal are often the result. It can be daunting enough to share with someone about private matters and much more so when it comes to sexuality. When asked which age group suffers most from sexual abuse, Benjamin Keyes, Ph.D., Ed.D., the Director of the Center for Trauma and Resiliency Studies at Divine Mercy University (DMU), said “the highest percentage of sexual abuse happens in early childhood and is most often perpetrated by someone that the child knows, such as a parent, step-parent, relative or neighbor.” This is common knowledge among mental health professionals, who understand that abuse in the early years can result in serious psychological disruptions, including personality changes, behavioral problems and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms. Such betrayal by a trusted adult can also, in some cases, manifest as dissociation -- a sort of “trip wire” in the human brain -- where one's sense of connection with the event or self becomes separated from reality. Consequences for adult victims can be just as strong. Hypervigilance, a continual and sometimes subconscious monitoring of one's surroundings to try and ensure personal safety, is very common, as are symptoms of anxiety, depression, relational difficulties and PTSD. While people of more vulnerable demographics are at a higher risk of suffering such an assault, sexual abuse has shown that it doesn't discriminate, being seen in all demographics. “It's smattering across all ages and all socioeconomic groups, all situations, professionals, non-professionals, but it’s unfortunately an epidemic all over the world,” said Dr. Keyes. Faced with facts like these, it may seem that something as pervasive and delicate as sexual abuse is impossible to counteract. Thankfully, that isn't the reality. Since the late 1980’s, the field of psychology has made incredible advances in understanding trauma, PTSD and the phenomenon of dissociation. Various therapeutic interventions exist to help restore the sense of integrity and safety that is damaged by sexual abuse. Greater skill and understanding have helped talk therapy guide someone through the healing process. Interventions such as Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), biofeedback and emotion regulation skills have developed to assist one to heal the traumatic memories and learn coping skills to navigate daily functioning. There is hope. There is a way to heal and restore dignity and peace after the experience of sexual abuse. The recovery process often requires significant work and time.    “It usually takes a fairly long time, unless we get them as children,” said Dr. Keyes. “If we get them as children actually, the healing process usually takes on average 9 months to a year and half ... if they are adults, it ranges anywhere from 2-10 years, on average.” The other important factor to keep in mind is that, while healing needs to happen primarily through therapy with a qualified professional, those who love and support victims of abuse are not helpless in the process. There are steps you can take to help, to prevent and even intervene when necessary. One easy action is to know who in your area is qualified to help those have suffered sexual abuse or know where to find them. The American Counseling Association and the American Psychological Association have referral links on their websites to find a professional in your area, and the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation has a very good search tool listing counselors that are members of their society worldwide. Informing yourself of the local resources available can be a good way to connect to local organizations, such as Catholic Charities, who can assist with referrals and recommendations. It is very important to know when and to whom to refer someone so those that are suffering can receive the help needed as soon as possible. You can also request that a professional come and educate your local community, whether that be your church, school or organization, about how to identify potential problems and what to do with them. Divine Mercy University hosts training and educational workshops offered by the Center for Trauma and Resiliency Studies (CTRS). These workshops are open to the public either onsite at DMU’s campus or online via video conferencing. The next workshop offered by the CTRS is a two-day training applying the HEART Model to sexual trauma and human trafficking. (The HEART Model is Healing Emotional/Affective Responses to Trauma.) While this workshop alone does not qualify anyone to directly treat those suffering sexual trauma, it can be a beneficial training for teachers, police officers, firefighters, nurses, laity, child workers, youth workers.  But with all these different ways of how we look at, understand, address and treat sexual trauma, there is one main thing that Dr. Keyes wished all people could understand. “Regardless of the level of hurt and the level of dysfunction, the level of trauma,” he said, “ you can get well and you can heal. That's true for people that are fragmented in their psyche such as Dissociative Identity Disorder clients. It’s true for PTSD clients, true for all of us, that healing is possible; healing is possible. And if you are a clinician or minister or whatever, remember that one person can make a huge difference. It may be in your town or in your practice, but, the ripple effect of one person getting well is huge. It goes out to children and family members and friends and other situations. We all have a huge responsibility to be effective with those that we work with.” As a university committed to the study of psychology and the whole understanding  of the person, all degree programs at Divine Mercy University are imbued with the idea that humans are a gift, designed not only to live well, but to flourish. DMU seeks to educate  its students to see the human person in all dimensions of life  - the spiritual, psychological, emotional and biological -- in order to treat people on all levels and guide them to personal flourishing and fulfillment. If you would like to take the steps to guide others in their healing process, please go to our website and look into our M.S. in Counseling and Psychology programs.

Saints who Struggled with Mental Illness

On All Saints' Day, we wanted to share with you the profiles of four saints who are patrons of those who struggle with mental illness as a source of hope and intercession. 

Saint Benedict Joseph Labre

St. Benedict Joseph Labre, “The Beggar of Rome”, was born in 1748 in Amettes, France.  As one of 18 children, he left home at a young age to study under his uncle to become a priest.  After several years of studying and not being accepted into an order, Labre left everything behind to devote himself to the Church, with special devotions to the Blessed Mother and the Blessed Sacrament.  Labre spent his life traveling from shrine to shrine through Europe relying only on the generosity of others. As a beggar he slept on the street and begged for sustenance. However, he was known to share what little he had with those around him.  In his 30’s Labre slept in the ruins of the Colosseum in Rome, until he died in 1783 at the young age of 35. St. Benedict Joseph Labre is the patron saint for those living with mental illness and the homeless.

Prayer to Saint Benedict Joseph Labre

Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, you gave up honor, money, and home for love of Jesus. Help us to set our hearts on Jesus and not on the things of this world. You lived in obscurity among the poor in the streets. Enable us to see Jesus in our poor brothers and sisters and not judge by appearances. Make us realize that in helping them we are helping Jesus. Show us how to befriend them and not pass them by. Obtain for us the grace of persevering prayer, especially adoration of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, poor in the eyes of men but rich in the eyes of God, pray for us. Amen  

Saint Dymphna

Saint Dymphna was an Irish girl with lived in the 7th century.  She was the daughter of a pagan king, Damon, and a Christian mother.  At a young age Dymphna devoted herself to Christ and took a vow of chastity.  When her mother died, her father, who’s mental illness with progressively getting worse, looked for a new bride that looked like his late wife.  After not finding a woman who bore his late wife’s resemblance, Damon became infatuated with his daughter Dymphna because of her resemblance. At the age of 14, Dymphna fled Ireland to escape her father and settled in Geel, Belgium where she opened a hospice and for the poor and sick.  After her father searched for and found her, he was enraged that she would not return home with him and beheaded her. To this day the town of Geel, Belgium has become a hub for those who are suffering from mental illness to seek refuge and healing. Saint Dymphna is the patroness of those who suffer from mental and nervous disorders.

Prayer to Saint Dymphna

Good Saint Dymphna, great wonder-worker in every affliction of mind and body, I humbly implore your powerful intercession with Jesus through Mary, the Health of the Sick, in my present need.  [Mention it.] Saint Dymphna, martyr of purity, patroness of those who suffer with nervous and mental afflictions, beloved child of Jesus and Mary, pray to Them for me and obtain my request. [Pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be.] Saint Dymphna, Virgin and Martyr, pray for us.  

Saint Christina the Astonishing

Saint Christina the Astonishing was born in Brustem, Belgium in 1150.  In her early 20’s she suffered a seizure and was pronounced dead. During her funeral, she arouse from her coffin during the liturgy and was completely healed and full of vigor.  Saint Christina said that while she was dead she visited Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell. She was given the option to stay in heaven or continue her life on earth as penance for the souls in Purgatory.  She spent the rest of her life performing acts of penance such as throwing herself into fire and rivers and living in poverty. She was imprisoned on two occasions for being a danger and being mentally ill.  She died of natural causes at the age of 74. She is a patron saint of those who live with mental illness.  

Prayer to Saint Christina the Astonishing

St. Christina, you lived a life of poverty and loneliness in the eyes of others.  But you knew that in the eyes of God, you were wealthy and has His love and the companionship of saints and angels.  Help us to see beyond the things of the world and to realize we are never alone. Pray that we remember to offer up our sufferings for those who do not see beyond the material and who are seeking love and fulfillment, that they may come to know God and realize that they are never alone. Saint Christina the Astonishing, pray for us.  

Venerable Matt Talbot

Matt Talbot was a man who lived in Ireland from 1856-1924.  He came from a family of heavy drinkers and at the young age of 13 was considered a hopeless alcoholic.  When Matt turned 28 he decided to take the pledge and commit to a life of sobriety. For the last forty years of his life Matt remained sober, finding strength in prayer, daily mass, and religious studies.  Matt was a hard worker working in the timber yard and choosing the most difficult jobs. After his death Matt was regarded for his piety and a bridge was named after him in Dublin. Although not yet canonized, he may be considered a patron for those suffering from alcoholism and addictions.  

Prayer to Venerable Matt Talbot

Lord, in your servant, Matt, Talbot, you have given us a wonderful example of triumph over addiction, of devotion to duty, and of lifelong reverence for the Most Holy Sacrament.  May his life of prayer and penance give us the courage to take up our crosses and follow in the footsteps of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Father, if it be your will that your beloved servant should be glorified by your Church, make known by your heavenly favors that power he enjoys in your sight. We ask this through the same Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen. ---- Divine Mercy University offers psychology and counseling graduate-level degrees that help train students to become mental health professionals.
Request degree information today to help those who suffer from mental illness.

Why Values Fail & Virtues Succeed in Marriage

Personal values may be why 50% of marriages fail. Behind the smiles of the family portrait lies the stress from the trials of raising a family that can weigh heavily on the family as a whole, from economics and finances to the fast-paced environment and differing values. These trials can create a great tension within the family and, if they’re not addressed, could bring devastating complications and outcomes including troubled marriages, separation and divorce. Contributing columnist for Catholic Moral Theology suggests that the problem leading to struggling marriages and a decline in family and relationship values is a confusion between “values” and “virtues.” In his article “Family Virtues Not Family Values,” David Cloutier describes virtue as “a habit, a settled disposition, a kind of ‘second nature’ that inclines a person to respond in particular ways and not others.” Like most habits, they need to be repeated in order for them to become second nature, much like the professional athlete who constantly trains in order to maintain the ability to perform at the highest level. Virtues are crucial to marriage and family life, and can only really be developed through generating a culture of virtue that’s reinforced throughout the whole of life. In the Online Master’s in Psychology program, you can gain the skills necessary to decrease the alarming rate of divorce by getting an understanding of vocations and virtues and how they align with human behavior.  

Abuse & Trauma in the Church: DMU Responds

“Kresta In the Afternoon” host Al Kresta interviews Fr. Charles Sikorsky, President of Divine Mercy University, concerning the abuse scandal in the Church. Live from the Authentic Catholic Reform Conference: https://rn189-f69d0b.pages.infusionsoft.net/ Al Kresta: Hi! Good afternoon! I’m Al Kresta here in Washington, D.C., at the Conference on Authentic Catholic Reform, sponsored by the Napa Institute. With me right now, Father Charles Sikorsky, who is president of Divine Mercy University, and you can learn by going to divinemercy.edu. Great to see you again! Fr. Sikorsky: Nice to see you, Al! Al Kresta:  We usually run into each other in California at the Napa Institute. Fr. Sikorsky: Normally California, yes. Al Kresta: I think we’ve run into each other at other conferences too. Fr. Sikorsky: We have! Al Kresta: But it’s good to be with you here. Let me just ask: Divine Mercy University...when a crisis like this comes about, that seems to touch Catholics everywhere--institutions, individuals--what does Divine Mercy University offer to help us in the midst of a crisis like this? Fr. Sikorsky: Yes. So, we are a graduate-level university; we have have two masters programs and a doctoral program that are focused on psychology and professional counseling, based on a Catholic understanding of the human person, and what a Catholic view of flourishing is, which is fundamental to doing psychology well, it’s fundamental to doing therapy well and counseling well. One of the areas is we also have a center for trauma and resiliency studies. So our students are trained in a way where not only do they appreciate what the human nature really is, but also how trauma plays into that. Or, excuse me, how much trauma is out there. So they’re trained very well to be able to treat victims of abuse; to understand the causes, to help others understand how to deal with victims of abuse, all kinds of abuse and trauma. So that’s one area where we’re really able to help. Al Kresta: And this is a unique type of trauma, too, isn’t it? I mean, it’s not only the psychological dimension of this but, for a victim who’s been abused by clergy, they’ve been abused in that area of their whole idea of the sacred. You know what I’m saying? It’s not just “some authority figure who abused me”, it’s “somebody who stood in the place of Christ abused me”.     Fr. Sikorsky: It’s aggravated trauma, you could call it, because of that. I mean, it’s bad enough as it is, but when you also throw in that spiritual element--that betrayal of such a sacred nature--it just really destroys a person. Right now, we have about 325 students. Virtually all of them are really solid Catholics who understand the importance of faith, the importance of spirituality, and I think that helps them and gives them a better, different perspective on this, and a different ability to help people heal. And a whole sense of the healing would be not only psychological, but also emotionally, spiritually, and so forth. Al Kresta: Do you have any clergy that you teach? Fr. Sikorsky: We do. We have, I’d say, probably between 5-10 percent of our enrollment is our priests in the different programs. We also have several consecrated women of different orders and so forth who are there. But by and large, though, we form laypeople. We have a Master’s in Counseling that’s online, we have another Master’s in Online Psych, and we have a doctoral program which is in our campus here in the Washington area.         Al Kresta: At this time, you’re a priest: what are you going through amidst a crisis like this? I mean, it’s gotta be...if you wear a collar, right? You have to be thinking that some people are not going to think well of you. Fr. Sikorsky: Right. Al Kresta: How to you deal with that? Fr. Sikorsky: Well, I think, first of all, we probably experience probably what most of the rest of the church experiences at first, right? There’s anger at how this could happen. Al Kresta: Right. Fr. Sikorsky: There are a lot of good questions that people have. Maybe in a way there’s an additional...you know, going around, walking around with a collar, you really can’t hide. But I think that we have one or two responses. We could either allow this to somehow draw us closer to God or into despair, and I really think there isn’t any middle ground. I think it’s a challenge for all of us. It’s kind of when St. Paul talks about the thorn in the flesh, and how the whole point of that was that God wanted Paul to rely on Him, and to be humble, and to really cling to our Lord. And he says (it’s in 2nd Corinthians, 12), before he goes into that story, “So as not to be too elated, God gave me a thorn in the flesh”. Al Kresta: Isn’t that an interesting phrase? Fr. Sikorsky: I think that’s one of the most important verses in the Bible, personally. It’s helped me so much to think about that and to say “God allows humiliations, He gives us crosses that we can’t run from for a reason”. That reason is to draw closer to Him, to realize that, apart from Him, we can do nothing. And I think, as a priest, that’s what’s helped me throughout this. I also think that in Romans 8:28, there’s a verse we can’t forget: “That all things work together for good for those who love God”       We just can’t forget that. I think God wants us to go there and really live that out, and realize that, on the other side of every cross, there will be a resurrection. If we open our hearts--if we accept this and embrace our Lord--go to Him first and realize that it’s Christ’s Church. He’s the one. It’s not about a hierarchy, although we need one. It’s really Him, and that’s where we gotta go. If we get too focused on other things, I think it does lead to unhealthy anger. There’s righteous anger; there’s unhealthy anger that leads to despair, that leads to so many things that we really don’t want Al Kresta: Just a little personal story here: at one point, the news was bad. It just coming and I was shaking my head thinking, “what the heck am I gonna do with this?” I mean, I’ve had the opportunity to help many people come into full communion with the Church, and they want to know what to do. Fr. Sikorsky: ‘You’ve trapt me’. (laughing) Al Kresta: (laughing) Right! And then what I did was fell out of the web of all those concerns. And I just asked the question: did Jesus rise from the dead or not?         Fr. Sikorsky: Mm hmmm. Al Kresta: He did! And knowing that changes everything. Because then you come back to “ok, He’s alive, He’s at work. Is this His Body, His Church?” The answer as a Catholic is: yes, absolutely. Knowing that, everything else comes into focus, and you can deal with it. For me, that’s what I’ve felt. I just go back to basics. I’m sure you must know priests that have had faculty suspended, or whatever they’ve done. Why? Why do you think this happens? Fr. Sikorsky: I think one of the things we need to remember is sometimes priests get so busy.  I think there’s a real crisis in the spiritual life of many priests, and one thing is to fall in a moment of weakness. Another thing is to habitually be doing and to not even seem to be care about it and cover it up and just go along. And you wonder how could they have a real spiritual life, and I think there’s a real crisis of that: in prayer life, in Eucharistic life and really putting their heart into their Breviary. One of the  things I think about is: God gives us so many means to be holy, so many means to connect with Him. Sometimes when you connect and read the Breviary, sometimes it can be “oh my gosh, I need to get this all done today”, but then you see how beautiful it is, how renewing it is. Maybe my morning prayer or my mental prayer didn’t go as well as I thought, but then you pray the Breviary and you think “wow, this is God is speaking to me here”. So I think that’s where the biggest crisis because if we’re not men of the spirit, if we’re not men of prayer, we’re gonna go wrong one way or the other. And some of them, for whatever reason or whatever their own personal background is, they may be more susceptible for falling into sexual sins--same-sex attraction, these kinds of things. I think that’s the most important thing. I once knew a priest psychologist who told me he worked with many perpetrators. Over 100, I think he said. And what he told me was that there were two common things with all of them. One of them was that none of them had been to confession in more than a year. And the second was that virtually none of them had been to spiritual direction since they were in seminary. Al Kresta: Isn’t that something?                    Fr. Sikorsky: And so I think that’s a big part of all this. And then, of course, the governance issues are a different thing, but this is at the heart of why priests have fallen into this.   Al Kresta: Sure. How big of a problem is careerism among Catholic clergy?   Fr. Sikorsky: In my role, I don’t see it alot. I’m not close to it. You do hear things when you talk to priests. I think it’s definitely a significant issue with how widespread. We’re all human, and priests are still human and sometimes there’s ambition or wanting to do things for the right reasons. But on the other hand, who would want to be a bishop today?   Al Kresta: (laughs) That’s partly what I’m thinking: what’s the attraction? Fr. Sikorsky: I know your friend if you remember, Fr. Benedict Groeschel C.F.R., Al Kresta:  Oh yes! Yeah, yeah. Fr. Sikorsky: I once heard him giving a talk and someone said “what’s the definition of a bishop?” And he said, “It’s a priest with bad luck”. But, power attracts people and, again, it’s the same thing. If you’re not really in it to follow our Lord, to bring people to His love and bring people to the faith, then you’re gonna fall into human goals and ambitions. Al Kresta: Right. You have graduate students, so they’re doing some research, and you got doctoral students doing some original research. Are they working in this area of clergy and sexual abuse? Fr. Sikorsky: We have several who have done dissertations related to priestly formation and priestly life. We’ve had many graduates doing dissertations, so they research this and have focused on different aspects of the Church. Right now, I don’t how many we have doing abuse, but it’s something that’s definitely right up their alley. Like I said, we see many students looking for more training in trauma and to help people with trauma. There's a great opportunity to do that, and what I say is we have real academic freedom and many things you can study at Divine Mercy University that you would not be allowed to do in other universities in that regard. There are many opportunities for us to help in some way with that, and I’ve talked with a few bishops recently to try and ask if there’s anything we can do along those lines that could help the conference, that could help the different bishops have a better understanding in those areas. Al Kresta: Are they responsive? Fr. Sikorsky:  In general, yes! Al Kresta: Glad to hear it. How do people get a hold of you? Fr. Sikorsky: Well, our website: divinemercy.edu. We’ll be happy to answer any questions or help whoever wants to contact us. Learn more about Divine Mercy University and all of our programs at enroll.divinemercy.edu.
About DMU
Divine Mercy University (DMU) is a Catholic graduate university of psychology and counseling programs. It was founded in 1999 as the Institute for the Psychological Sciences. The university offers a Master of Science (M.S.) in Psychology, Master of Science (M.S.) in Counseling, Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) in Clinical Psychology, and Certificate Programs.