BUFFALO, N.Y. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A scandal-ridden seminary in the state of New York is shutting its doors.
Christ the King Seminary in the diocese of Buffalo is closing at the end of this academic year. This announcement came Tuesday from Bp. Edward Scharfenberger of the diocese of Albany — currently acting as Buffalo's apostolic administrator.
In a video message Tuesday, Bp. Scharfenberger said, "The fact is that the Board of Trustees has concluded that it is no longer feasible to continue the operations of the seminary."
The seminary's president-rector Fr. Kevin Creagha explained in a diocesan press release, "Unfortunately, diocesan financial constraints, uncertainties surrounding future vocations, and the current environment in which we operate have brought us to this point."
On the financial front, the press release explained, "Over the past 10 years, Christ the King Seminary has experienced an operating deficit, amounting to $500,000 on average annually."
It announced a new "steering committee," whose members will "provide specific recommendations as to how priestly formation will continue for seminarians of the diocese of Buffalo, while also providing ongoing education in pastoral ministry and theological training for laywomen and men, as well as for those seeking ordination to the permanent diaconate."
Christ the King Seminary has been troubled by multiple scandals in recent years.
In September 2018, the seminary's president-rector, Fr. Joseph Gatto, was put on administrative leave following allegations of making homosexual advances. The diocese deemed Gatto guilty of sexually harassing two men, but Gatto was reinstated in May 2019 after psychological treatment. He is currently serving as senior parochial vicar at St. Leo the Great in Amherst.
Last April, the diocese of Buffalo suspended three priests for allegations of vulgar, sexually explicit conversation at a party with seminarians. According to a testimony by seminarians who were present (warning: graphic), the priests told a number of crass jokes and stories about sex, genitalia and homosexual activity.
Those three priests were restored to their normal ministry assignments about two months later.
Former students have blamed Christ the King Seminary — especially under Gatto's leadership — for fostering a highly sexualized subculture among Buffalo clergy.
News of the seminary's closure comes just two months after Bp. Scharfenberger was appointed to oversee the Buffalo diocese as apostolic adminstrator. Scharfenberger was brought in just as Bp. Richard Malone resigned in disgrace.
Bishop Malone's leadership came under intense scrutiny the last two years of his tenure, with much of the criticism focused on how the diocese handled clerical sex-abuse allegations.
For instance, he was criticized for returning accused abuser Fr. Dennis Riter to active ministry. One of the abuse accusations against Fr. Riter alleges he forced a 6-year-old boy into oral sex in 1992. During a televised interview last July, Bp. Malone dismissed allegations against Fr. Riter as having "no merit."
Buffalo priest Fr. Robert Zilliox repeatedly criticized Bp. Malone's handling of clerical abuse, calling for his resignation. Father Zilliox, himself a survivor of sex abuse by a priest, was once the bishop's canonical advisor, and claims Bp. Malone covered for multiple accused priests who Zilliox believed deserved to be laicized.