- The Washington Times - Friday, May 17, 2002

A priest who resigned from his parish in Connecticut amid allegations of sexual misconduct apparently killed himself yesterday at a Catholic psychiatric hospital in Prince George's County.
The diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., identified the priest who died at the St. Luke Institute as the Rev. Alfred J. Bietighofer, 64.
Bridgeport Bishop William Lori stripped Mr. Bietighofer last month of his priestly powers and ordered him to undergo psychiatric evaluation.
Two men told diocesan officials Mr. Bietighofer abused them when they were boys in the late 1970s and early 1980s, church officials said.
Police responded about 3:30 p.m. to a report of a man found "hanging"at the St. Luke Institute, said Cpl. Tammy Sparkman of the Prince George's County police.
"We are sad to inform you that a client here for evaluation died today, apparently by suicide," said the Rev. Stephen Rossetti, a psychologist who directs the center.
"This is a tragic event for all of us. We commend the deceased to the mercy of God and offer heartfelt prayers for the individual and family members," Father Rossetti told reporters outside the institute's 43-acre campus in Adelphi.
Father Rossetti said a nurse found the body. Capt. Andrew Ellis of the Prince George's Police Department said the man died in his room.
Mr. Bietighofer was assistant pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Bridgeport when he resigned April 29.
"The allegations from the two gentlemen were credible enough to warrant immediate action, in line with our policy," Bishop Lori said at the time the priest resigned.
Church officials did not report the allegations against Mr. Bietighofer to authorities, but said they would cooperate if asked for information.
Mr. Bietighofer had served in the Bridgeport diocese since he was ordained in 1965, except for two yearlong stints in Peru in the 1970s and 1980s.
St. Luke treats priests and nuns for a variety of mental health problems, including pedophilia. About a quarter of the institute's 65 beds are used by clergy undergoing treatment for sexual abuse problems.
St. Luke provides two tiers of service a weeklong evaluation of priests accused of sexual abuse and inpatient treatments that usually last six months. It has become one of the best-known treatment centers and is used heavily by American and some international dioceses.
Under the evaluation process for potential patients, St. Luke psychologists conduct a series of psychological, physical and spiritual assessments. At the end of the evaluation, patients are sent elsewhere for treatment, stay at St. Luke or are deemed not to need treatment.
Father Rossetti said every incoming patient is screened to determine if he is a suicide risk. Those deemed at risk are placed under "steady surveillance," he said.
St. Luke is an independent organization, not affiliated with any diocese or religious order. It is licensed by the state.
Karen Black, a spokeswoman at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said the Office of Health Care Quality will conduct a "full-scale investigation" of the apparent suicide.


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