Intense controversy currently surrounds the Roman Catholic priesthood in America. Allegations of recent wrongdoing by members of the FBI have brought into question by some their fidelity, bravery and integrity (the FBI creed). Occasional stories of psychologists abusing patients or making fraudulent insurance claims have made front-page tabloids. And so as a Roman Catholic priest who works for the FBI as a forensic psychologist, when I’m asked, “What do you do for a living?” some may wonder why I don’t say something like, “I’m a greeter at the local discount store.” And yet, the combination of these three professions makes for an interesting, enjoyable, educational and fulfilling workday!
Admittedly, if someone had told me thirty-five years ago when I entered the seminary that I would eventually be working as a forensic psychologist in the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit (BSU), it would have strained even my faith. As a young seminarian with a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in moral theology, I would not have anticipated the next thirty-five years would result in having worked in uniform with the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., receiving a master’s degree in forensic psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in NYC, a PhD in psychology from Georgetown University and completing an internship at Bellevue Hospital. There must be something to the adage, “Being at the right place at the right time.”
In some ways, though, it seems like a perfect fit: an examination of what the evil men, women and children do from a theological, psychological and legal perspective. It becomes even more interesting when the prism through which I view the world combines the Christian humanism of St. Francis deSales, the patron of my Religious order, and the determinism of Sigmund Freud, the psychological orientation I’ve adopted. The resultant hybrid is something of a BioPsychoSocioSpiritual perspective: basically good people making choices within given and set parameters. Some of those choices turn out to have wonderful effects on themselves and others; some of those choices turn out to be pretty awful ones that have catastrophic effects on others.
My current position in the FBI is Senior Scientist and Forensic Psychologist within the BSU. My responsibilities include liaison among academic, professional and criminal justice agencies, and the scientific exploration and investigation within the FBI’s Training Division. The mission of the BSU is threefold: Teaching, Research and Case Consultation. My teaching responsibilities include classes entitled Clinical Forensic Psychology, and Violent Behavior: A BioPsychoSocial Perspective. The students in these classes form the National Academy at the FBI’s Training Academy in Quantico, Va., an eleven-week course of studies for sworn law enforcement officers from around the world.
Since my entrance on duty with the FBI in 1988, I have researched various areas of law enforcement safety. This research resulted in a number of articles, training guides and publications including Killed in the Line of Duty and In the Line of Fire.