Boston Seminary Investigation Confirms Sexual Misconduct

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by Christine Niles, M.St. (Oxon.), J.D.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  November 25, 2019   

Also confirms lack of follow-up by Cdl. O'Malley

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BOSTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - The official findings from an investigation into a Boston-area seminary confirmed sexual misconduct, but no crimes.

A detailed report released Friday by the archdiocese of Boston revealed evidence of "inappropriate" sexual conduct among seminarians and "isolated incidents" of alcohol abuse.

"Contrary to some of the reporting surrounding the 2018 social media postings, the Seminary is not a den of sexual misconduct fueled by excessive drinking," the report states.

It goes on to clarify, however, that:

most of the factual assertions in the social media postings were largely confirmed, including those regarding the expulsion of two seminarians for sexual misconduct in 2014, the receipt by a number of seminarians of lewd and anonymous texts in 2015, a "bachelor party" for one of the staff members, and the Seminary's acceptance (and frequent encouragement) of social drinking. We also concluded that the Seminary had inadequate (and sometimes absent) leadership and oversight. 

John Monaco, one of the two seminarians whose testimony prompted the investigation last year, told Church Militant, "I encourage everyone to read the 90-page report and not rely on summaries. Upon reading the report, you will see how there existed immoral conduct unconducive to proper priestly formation."

 

"The report's recommendations made were a direct response to my concerns; hence, the report itself is validation of behavior that was actual or reasonably implied conclusions by myself and others," he added. "I am thankful to Yurko, Salvesen & Remz, P.C. for their work, and the seminary can continue to move forward to form men after the Heart of Jesus."

Cardinal Sean O'Malley launched the investigation last year after Monaco and another seminarian, Andrew Solkshinitz, published commentary online revealing disturbing homosexual incidents as well as pressure for underage drinking.

"During my two years at this seminary, I witnessed in abundance inappropriate behavior by faculty and seminarians alike," Monaco wrote in August 2018. "Some priests were known to 'groom' other seminarians with lavish gifts and favoritism. Other priests would form cliques with seminarians and would even invite certain ones into their rooms for private 'parties.'" 

Some priests were known to 'groom' other seminarians with lavish gifts and favoritism.

"Alcohol abuse was a major issue there," he continued. "Sometimes, late at night, I would come downstairs and find seminarians lying in one another's arms, stroking their hair."

After reporting the "homosexual subculture" to his formation advisor and vocation director, and seeing that "nothing in the seminary would change," Monaco eventually left.

Shortly after these revelations, O'Malley placed Msgr. James Moroney, rector of St. John's, on sabbatical and formed an investigative committee to look into these complaints.

The report acknowledges Monaco's open letter to Cdl. O'Malley, published last fall after the cardinal launched his investigation, in which Monaco notes, "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." 

He stresses, "[T]his investigation must address the disturbing reality that these allegations were only brought to the public eye precisely because they were previously ignored."

Findings

Cardinal O'Malley issued a statement Friday expressing confidence in the future of St. John's Seminary — even as the report noted his lack of follow-up when he'd been first made aware of problems years before.

"I am confident that the facts brought forth by this report and the actions being taken to address those issues unite us in the commitment to ensure that St. John's Seminary maintains a standard of excellence for the formation of men discerning the vocation of a life of service to the church," Cdl. O'Malley said in a statement issued Friday.

According to the report, O'Malley had been aware of a number of problems at St. John's Seminary long before the investigation but had failed to follow up to ensure they had been handled.

"Our investigation disclosed that Cardinal O'Malley knew of a number of the matters discussed in this Report," the 90-page document states. "Cardinal O'Malley received commitments from Msgr. Moroney to address them. However, Cardinal O'Malley relied too heavily on those assurances from Msgr. Moroney. As a result, there was insufficient follow-up to determine if these commitments were kept."

The report confirms a 2015 "sexting" scandal that involved six seminarians, noting that the rector and vice rector responded "clumsily" to the matter.

"A meeting with all seminarians to address the matter was handled clumsily by the Rector and Vice Rector," the report states.

Most importantly, whether or not the seminarians' distress resulting from these texts was appropriate, the Rector and the Vice Rector failed to recognize their impact on the seminarians. The Rector's absence from much of the life of the Seminary was possibly a contributing factor to his misperception. The Vice Rector’s angry reaction to requests that additional steps be taken to respond to the texts was inappropriate

The rector, Msgr. Moroney, was initially included on the committee tasked with investigating the seminary. After complaints that his presence would compromise the investigation, he was replaced on the board and the archdiocese announced he'd be leaving the seminary and taking over as interim rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul in neighboring Worcester.

The report reveals that Moroney had the nickname "Diamond Jim" because of his penchant for lavishing gifts on others: "Because of his overly generous nature, the seminarians bestowed on Msgr. Moroney the nickname of 'Diamond Jim.'"

The report also acknowledges a problem with alcohol at the seminary, and recommends measures to curb excessive drinking.

"Given that the use of alcohol is connected directly or indirectly to most misconduct that takes place at the Seminary," the report states, "additional steps can and should be taken as part of the seminarians' 'human formation' to reduce or eliminate the culture of drinking that does exist so that the seminarians can meet the standards of exemplary conduct expected at the Seminary."

The report addresses complaints about what seminarians called the 'Pretty Committee.'

The report addresses complaints about what seminarians called the "Pretty Committee" — a circle of handsome seminarians with an "uncommonly close" friendship with an unnamed professor with the alias "Faculty Member 2."

While there was no evidence of sexual behavior between the faculty member and his close circle of friends, the report notes that "any real or perceived favoritism between a Formation Advisor, like Faculty Member 2, and a select group of seminarians is unhealthy for the Seminary and to be avoided."

The report concludes with a number of recommendations, including establishment of a confidential reporting mechanism, review of policies regarding alcohol use, greater oversight of seminary spending and increasing the board of trustees' role in oversight and governance.


 

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