Long-closed Montara home for troubled priests figures in Indianapolis abuse charges

By on Wed, January 28, 2009

A story about a priest accused of child abuse in Indianapolis contains details about a former Montara home for troubled priests.

The House of Affirmation, headquartered in Massachusetts, closed amid financial scandal in 1989. The Rev. Thomas Kane, its co-founder, was the subject of sex abuse allegations in 1995 that were settled by the Catholic Diocese of Worcester.

But Mercer, the archdiocesan attorney, defended the House of Affirmation, saying that when Monroe arrived for a yearlong stay in 1981, it was still considered on the cutting edge of clinics for sex abusers.

Located in Montara, Calif., the House of Affirmation’s West Coast hub was an attractive place where priests could retire, and Wall said people from the local Catholic diocese would go there for retreats.

"It was kind of a good mob operation," he said. "The front looked just fine."

The clinic’s director wrote Monroe in advance of his visit, telling him to bring swimwear. He also said a monthly stipend from the archdiocese would be useful so he could "join other residents for occasional dining-out, movies, concerts, etc., which we consider most therapeutic and strongly encourage."

Monroe arrived with a suitcase of troubles. In sworn statements and a post-priesthood letter he wrote to O’Meara, he said he was suppressing his homosexuality and was engulfed in raging substance abuse. Those things, along with an immaturity that made him feel more comfortable around kids, prompted the child abuse, Monroe said.

Still, his greatest fear was that psychological testing might lead church officials to discover his homosexuality. "I left for the House of Affirmation with the intention of proving one point—that there was nothing wrong with me," he said.

His substance abuse, he said, was never addressed: "The whole time I was in Montara I drank like a fish. I continued to use drugs. And that’s not really conducive for making the kind of changes that you need to make for good mental health."