“Physician, heal thyself,” said hometown citizens to Jesus. By which they meant “prove you can work miracles here like you’ve done elsewhere.”
Jesus, knowing their skeptical put-down, replied, “A prophet is without honor in his own hometown.” (Luke 4: 23-24, slightly modified.)
Which brings us to former Waterloo physician Mark Louviere, now returned from a decade in prison for facilitating methamphetamine sales — part of a ring of suppliers and dealers.
A doctor helping supply meth? First, do harm? It didn’t add up, and the news hit the Cedar Valley in 2007 like an E5 tornado. It devastated patients, colleagues and friends. Some remained loyal, others turned on him, wanting nothing more to do with him or his partners.
When Louviere was arrested in 2007, agents discovered more than 12 pounds of methamphetamine in a neighbor’s Cedar Falls garage — street value around a million dollars. Because Louviere stored guns in his house, they added years to his sentence — up to 100. Under the law at time, he was required to serve 33 years, and that minimum was reduced to 22 because of his guilty plea.
No trial. He confessed, and the details of his crime were frankly sordid and shocking.
Louviere himself was addicted, admitting he had lived the life of an addict toward the end.
His 22-year sentence was further reduced to 10 for good behavior, and now he’s out on work release from the Newton Correctional Facility. Parole will follow, if all goes well, in about five weeks.
At his suggestion, I interviewed Louviere recently in his workplace — the Waterloo St. Vincent de Paul warehouse. He’s certain he’s ready to become a contributing member of the larger community, and not necessarily as a doctor.
I asked how he was feeling. Since he allowed me to record him, I can quote directly. “I feel great. I’m happy to be out, of course. I was able to exercise every afternoon and became a tutor for inmates earning their high school diplomas, and taught advanced math and science courses.”
Prison was not too bad? “I actually returned to my younger days of reading and contemplating. For the last five years, I kept track of all the books I read, and in that time I read 687 books. Nobel prize-winners, winners of various literary awards. I actually enjoyed that part of prison, since I had time to read and contemplate.”
Has he transformed? “I know this sounds like a terrible cliche, but I found religion, or rather returned to my childhood belief in Catholicism. I went to mass every Sunday and now work four nights a week at the Catholic Worker House. For work release, I chose to work at St. Vincent de Paul, thanks to Pat Russo, who offered me a job as a computer and fundraising specialist. I love this work, and might stay on after work release.”
Russo, incidentally, confirms Louviere’s change, saying, “He has a great work ethic, he’s deeply religious, and he’s had a positive influence on everyone.”
Louviere continued, “I do feel remorse, especially because I not only betrayed my family, my friends, my colleagues and the community, I betrayed myself.”
Why? “During that time I became someone else. I was no longer myself, and now realize what a hypocrite I had become.”
So, what’s next? He hopes to find a new life. “There are three things that I’m contemplating for my future. One of them is getting my medical license back. They might restrict me to practicing prison medicine. This would be an interesting thing for me.”
“The second option would be mission work — depending on my parole officer, I might be able to work in Africa, or Haiti, or the Dominican Republic. I don’t know what the requirements would be, but I would have the skills to be a medical worker in missions.”
Third, “I have a very close friend who’s a nun in Dubuque, and I would happily spend a year at the New Melleray Abbey in Dubuque to continue my contemplative life.”
Mark Louviere, the wild man, the motorcycle-obsessed free spirit of old, known for his love of wine, women and living large? Living a monastic life by choice?
“They have a program at the Abbey for people who want a quiet life to decide what they want to do next. I’m considering that.”
A glimmer of his old life broke through. “I still love motorcycles. Of course I sold them, but I still have access, and I’d like to ride occasionally, though I’ll probably never buy one.”
My skepticism came out most when I confronted him with a straightforward question:
“Do you feel like you might be a sociopath, devoid of any real feeling for those you hurt?” I had heard that from several people.
He seemed taken aback. “My gosh. The only thing I can say that if they knew me before I was involved in the drug culture, they wouldn’t ask. I can tell you, once you become involved in the drug culture, your ability to make moral, spiritual and ethical decisions becomes clouded.”
“During a period of time, I was still functional, but I did behave in ways I can’t justify. I am totally, completely and solely responsible for the decisions I made.”
He describes himself as a changed man, ready to contribute, utterly uninterested in returning to his old life and anxious to make a contribution that will justify his 10 years of punishment. “I can guarantee you I will never, ever return to an addict’s life.”
In fact, he doesn’t even seek to live the good life of a wealthy doctor. Instead, he’s content to drive his mother’s old Buick and work in the St. Vincent de Paul warehouse.
As we ended, he mentioned, “A guy asked me, ‘Are you a bad guy with a streak of good, or a good guy with a streak of bad?’” he laughed. I had wondered the same.
I’m still a bit skeptical, since newly released inmates sometimes continue a con by claiming a religious conversion. But from what I saw and heard, he’s straight-on sincere.
I called two of his close recent friends, older women who drove to Newton to play cards with him nearly every weekend for years. They spoke highly of him, and both were certain the old Mark Louviere is gone forever. “He’s a changed man,” they agreed, and were happy to have provided him with Christian friendship and support when he needed it.
He’s certainly a high-energy talker, a “hypomanic” Type A personality. Yet he looked me right in the eye for the whole interview, and our conversation seemed entirely natural and on the level.
With the crucial help of his Catholicism, which he reveres, Mark Louviere may well be healing himself.
Now to find honor in his own hometown.