By John Monaco
Your Eminence, Cardinal Seán Patrick O'Malley,
It is with a spirit of faith, hope and love that I write this letter to you, the shepherd of all Roman Catholics in the archdiocese of Boston. During his apostolic journey to the United States, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, exhorted you and all of the U.S. bishops in attendance to be "close to people," becoming "pastors who are neighbors and servants." Citing the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the Holy Father asked that you and your brother bishops be men of pastoral sensitivity, examples to the priests under your care, so that they too may "be ready to stop, care for, soothe, lift up and assist those who, 'by chance' find themselves stripped of all they thought they had" (Lk 10:29–37).
As a victim of sexual abuse and misconduct, I, like the man in the parable who was attacked by robbers, found myself stripped of all I thought they had. I thought I had security and safety within the walls of an institution dedicated to forming men after the Heart of Jesus. I thought I had trust in those in power to promptly address issues of misconduct, especially seeing how past failures in this area damaged Catholics worldwide. And lastly, I thought I had a priestly vocation — something which I have now given up in exchange for a prophetic one.
As you know, news of the abusive "Uncle Ted" McCarrick caused a firestorm among the Catholic faithful here in this country. Many of us faithful Catholics find ourselves baffled how public face of the Catholic Church in America could have gone on to enjoy a very successful episcopal career despite common knowledge among the Church and media that he was a predator. Reflecting upon the way McCarrick and other clerics with power were allowed to commit abuses and cover them up, I realized that silence was what allowed additional violence to be committed against more and more victims. And so, I decided to write about my experiences of wrongdoing, first published here by One Peter Five.
Out of courtesy, I declined to disclose the names of these seminaries I attended and faculty members guilty of misconduct, preferring to focus on the troubling issues themselves. However, as my story spread across social media, former seminarians spoke out publicly and confirmed that I was telling the truth — and went so far as to give the name of the seminary itself. It is now public knowledge that my tragic experiences took place at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary from 2010–2011 and Saint John's Seminary from 2014–2016, the latter of which is directly under your care.
Please allow me to make a few important distinctions which can hopefully help the investigation. First, my complaints regarding Saint John's Seminary were not specifically about sexual abuse; they were about general misconduct, scandalous behavior by faculty and students and an overall unhealthy seminary culture. Of course, such misconduct includes former seminarians engaging in sodomy and a "sexting" scandal which disturbed many of us in the house. However, should the investigation focus exclusively on the issue of sex and sex abuse, it will be a relatively easy case to dismiss.
On one hand, the two seminarians were rightly expelled, but on the other hand, the sexting scandal was improperly addressed by priests on the faculty and outside the faculty alike. These two instances are not enough to address the many issues plaguing Saint John's. Sexual misconduct is not the main problem — it is symptomatic of larger issues regarding boundary violations, immorality and accountability.
Secondly, as I have consistently stated, my motivation for speaking out was out of a sincere love for the Catholic Church. I am not a "disgruntled seminarian," nor am I someone who is a seminary "failure." I received a positive vote to advance in major seminary both years; it was my free and honest decision to leave the toxic environment. I, along with others, have seen the way silence in the face of sin has allowed it to spread more pervasively. I have heard whispers that my story was "slanderous" and "dishonest."
Let it be known that I have corrected multiple news outlets in their erroneous reporting of important details to this investigation, which should testify to my claim that I care only about truth and justice — not sensationalism and embellishment. Should anyone doubt my honesty, I urge you to note how part of my testimony has already been confirmed through Pennsylvania's recent grand jury report.
Moreover, I have proof and witnesses of the misconduct at Saint John's. In speaking the truth, I sacrificed everything — my name, my reputation, my family, my friends, potential future jobs, connections and more. I now understand what Our Lord meant when He said, "Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it" (Mt 16:25).
Thirdly, this investigation must address the disturbing reality that these allegations were only brought to the public eye precisely because they were previously ignored. As I mentioned in my story, I went through the proper channels in my attempt to address the misconduct. I brought my concerns to both my formation advisor and vocation director multiple times. There are only two options in regards to my allegations about the culture at Saint John's Seminary — either the seminary faculty were so obtuse that these complaints went unnoticed, or worse, those in power are lying about their ignorance of my allegations. Either of these options are damning; in either scenario, those entrusted with proper leadership failed in their duty to uphold, in your words, the "moral standards and requirements of formation for the Catholic priesthood," whether by sins of commission or omission.
I hereby request that the investigation focuses on three major areas:
1. Immoral and unprofessional misconduct by faculty and students alike, including, but not limited to:
2. A toxic culture of fear, intimidation, and discrimination at Saint John's Seminary
3. Subsequent cover-up of such misconduct and unhealthy culture by leadership