Bishop says priest used self-bondage for stress relief

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Fr. Tom Donovan

Bishop Thomas Paprocki, the anti-gay activist who heads the Archdiocese of Springfield, Ill., said a priest who recently called for help to remove handcuffs was alone and not engaged in sexual behavior when police found him.

In early January, Father Tom Donovan dialed 911 and described himself as being stuck in a potential medical emergency. Police respondents found him wearing a bondage-style mouth gag and handcuffs.

Despite the implications of being discovered in such a situation, however, Paprocki, who is fighting marriage equality efforts underway in his state, said Donovan merely practiced self-bondage to relieve stress. According to Paprocki, the situation underscores the hardships of clerical life.

“The unfortunate result of such patterns of life – in no way limited to the experience of Catholic priests – is that persons often find themselves seeking patterns of ‘self-medication’ to soothe emotional turmoil,” Paprocki wrote. “Alcoholism, the use of illicit drugs, compulsive gambling, sexual acting out and the use of pornography are some of the more common manifestations, none of which were present in this situation. Instead, according to the clinical therapist, Father Donovan is suffering from a psychological condition that manifests itself in self-bondage as a response to stress. The clinical therapist also confirms that the strict absence of illicit sexual behaviors, relationships, and patterns reveal that this self-bondage is to be understood as non-sexual in nature.”

Donovan is currently on a leave of absence from his stressful job.

Meanwhile, in other Catholic news, police said a Franciscan friar accused of sexual abusing students at schools in two states killed himself at a western Pennsylvania monastery.

Blair Township police Chief Roger White told the Associated Press an autopsy by the county coroner confirmed that 62-year-old Brother Stephen Baker died of self-inflicted wounds.

White said officers were called to St. Bernardine Monastery in Hollidaysburg on Saturday morning after another resident had found Baker not breathing.

Baker was named last week in legal settlements with 11 men who alleged he sexually abused them at a northeast Ohio school three decades ago. A Pennsylvania school said it has also received molestation allegations involving Baker.

Youngstown Bishop George Murray called for prayers for abuse victims, Baker's family "and the repose of his soul."