Sacred and clinical treatment of addictions explored by book, conference

By Elizabeth Fisher
Special to the CS&T

Cardinal Justin Rigali will host a one-day conference on addictions that will bring together prominent Catholic professionals with experience in the field. The conference will be held Friday, Nov. 5, at the Sheraton Philadelphia City Center Hotel, 17th and Race streets, Philadelphia.

People involved in the care and support of inspaniduals and families, including clergy, religious, psychologists, social workers, licensed counselors, doctors, nurses, school administrators and teachers, as well as inspaniduals recovering from addictions, are invited to attend. {{more}}

The Philadelphia Archdiocese, the St. John Vianney Center in Downingtown and the Michigan-based Guest House Institute are working together to present the conference. The St. John Vianney Center and Guest House Institute specialize in the treatment of mental health and addictions among clergy and religious.

The conference will be based on Cardinal Rigali’s book, “Let the Oppressed Go Free: Breaking the Bonds of Addiction,” published last year by Basilica Press. In the book, the Cardinal presents an overview of the causes, cycles and treatment of addictions, and the role of the sacraments, the Eucharist and prayer in the recovery process.

Michael Morton, a marriage and family therapist with the Guest Institute, which operates a treatment unit within the St. John Vianney Center, said that all of the conference speakers are well versed in the Catholic understanding of the causes and treatments of addictions, whether those addictions involve drugs, alcohol, gambling, Internet “isolation,” sexual activity or work.

“Cardinal Rigali stressed [in his book] that it is imperative that those in the addiction-treatment ministries be compassionate and work to build bridges – rather than become obstacles to recovery,” Morton said.

He said the speakers will expound on how the sacred can interface with the clinical, instead of being polarized elements of treatment. He praised the Cardinal’s understanding of the nature of addiction and the complementary elements of science and faith.

“It is a beautiful way to address the issue. Cardinal Rigali is the most significant Church leader we have today,” Morton said.

Cardinal Rigali will be the first speaker at the conference. The keynote speaker will be Sis Wenger, president and CEO of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, an organization focusing on prevention, education and advocacy for affected children and families.

Other speakers are: Father Mark Hushen, O.S.F.S., president and CEO of Father Martin’s Ashley, an internationally known alcohol and chemical addiction treatment center near Havre de Grace, Md.; Jesuit Father Gerald J. McGlone, executive director of consultation, education and research at St. John Vianney Center; Patricia O’Gorman, a psychologist in private practice in East Chatham, N.Y. ,noted for her work in child welfare, juvenile justice, mental health and substance abuse; Father Edward G. Reading, president of the International Coalition of Addictions Studies Educators; and Father Paul White, a board member of the National Catholic Council on Alcoholism and Related Drug Dependencies.

The registration fee is $95; a discounted fee of $75 applies if three or more persons from the same organization attend. Walk-in registration is $105 and is dependent on available space.

Registration forms may be mailed to Guest House Institute, 1601 Joslyn Road Lake, Orion, MI 48360. Make checks out to Guest House Institute. Online registration is available at

Elizabeth Fisher is a freelance journalist and member of St. Mark Parish in Bristol.