March 31, 2005

Priest abuse called root of brothers' woes

San Francisco Chronicle

Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer

Thursday, March 31, 2005

The drug and alcohol problems and anxiety that have plagued two former altar boys are in large part the result of the brothers' being victimized as children by a sexually abusive priest, two clinical psychologists testified Wednesday in the civil case against the Oakland Diocese.

Tom Thatcher, 33, suffered from "social phobia" and a methamphetamine addiction after the Rev. Robert Ponciroli abused him in the early 1980s at St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Antioch, psychologist Thomas Joiner of Tallahassee, Fla., told a Hayward jury.

Thatcher's troubles emerged when he hit puberty, becoming confused in sexual and social situations, Joiner said. Memories of the abuse were "like a time bomb in his head that really exploded in adolescence," Joiner testified.

Thatcher's brother, Bob, 34, meanwhile, developed generalized anxiety disorder, abused alcohol, had intimacy issues with his wife and was overcome with guilt that both he and his brother had fallen victim to Ponciroli, psychologist Janet Sonne told jurors.

Posted by kshaw at March 31, 2005 09:37 AM