Discarded Seminarian Fighting Back

News: US News Print Friendly and PDF
by William Mahoney, Ph.D.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  June 30, 2020   

Open letter exposes seminary cover-up

You are not signed in as a Premium user; we rely on Premium users to support our news reporting. Sign in or Sign up today!

After being forced out of the Pontifical North American College (NAC) in Rome, former seminarian Anthony Gorgia has launched a GoFundMe account to finance legal action against "culpable Church leaders who will listen ... when faced with a lawsuit."

Image
Anthony Gorgia

Gorgia, once an exemplary seminarian, was forced to leave the NAC during the 2018–2019 school year after witnessing the seminary's vice-rector inappropriately touching a seminarian in his care. 

Gorgia's impeccable record of service, coupled with love and admiration of professionals and people who know him, were no deterrent to his bishop, Cdl. Timothy Dolan of New York. Dolan sided with officials at the NAC, where he had been rector — a well-known stepping-stone position to the episcopacy for career-minded clergy.  

Dolan acted on false accusations the NAC leveled against Gorgia, requiring an eight-month interruption of the former seminarian's studies and a repeat of his second year "if" readmitted to the NAC after evaluation. Gorgia had to resign, since compliance would have meant agreement with the false allegations.

In addition to pursuing legal action to combat a cover-up culture that protects homsexual predators and punishes good men, Gorgia has also launched Save our Seminarians, a blog to stay updated about the case.  

 
 

ANTHONY GORGIA'S OPEN LETTER

June 1, 2020 Feast of Mary, Mother of the Church 

Dear fellow Catholics, 

"Ask and you shall receive ... knock and the door will be opened unto you" (Matthew 7:7). As I closed the door of my room at the Pontifical North American College (NAC), I thought of the urgent surgery awaiting me, and I was eager to resume the life of study, prayer and ministry I so loved as a seminarian. I could never have imagined that the door closed on that November morning would foreshadow the abrupt and unjust closing of another door — the door of a dream to become a priest in the archdiocese of New York.

What happens in a Church when a cry for help is heard but not answered; when doors are knocked upon in search of help, only to be shut without regard? While pains I could never have fathomed awaited me across the ocean far worse than my surgery, I cannot help but wonder if they are part of a deeper plan by God — a plan to bring to light a crisis at the NAC. 

As I share my experiences, I do not write with a spiteful pen or as a "failed vocation." My witnesses and unanimous record of excellent evaluations of my formation throughout my time in seminary speak for themselves. I submit this account as a faithful Catholic, supported by hundreds of pages of testimony, so that others may be spared the victimization I experience to this day.  

Cardinal Dolan nominated me to continue priestly studies at the NAC with high recommendations from my pre-theology rector at Cathedral Seminary in Douglaston, New York.

As I dedicated over 20 years of my life to serving the Church in various ministries, my zeal for serving God's people grew, and the Lord deepened my vision of priestly life. Those who have known me supported this call, and I was ever more confident that the voice that first called me when I was 6 years old was indeed the Lord's. As I entered seminary in 2015, I left all and followed Christ on a path my formators, peers and Cdl. Dolan saw as genuine — a path that took me thousands of miles away to the NAC in Vatican City.   

Image
Cdl. Dolan with Anthony Gorgia at admission
to candidacy on June 29, 2018

In 2017, Cdl. Dolan nominated me to continue priestly studies at the NAC with high recommendations from my pre-theology rector at Cathedral Seminary in Douglaston, New York. My time at the NAC was marked by achievements and blessings: being chosen to serve Pope Francis' Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica; obtaining summa cum laude grades in all my studies; receiving stellar evaluations from the faculty and the cardinal; and being appointed by the faculty as academic representative to the Pontifical Gregorian University. In this role, and with my solid linguistic and academic record, my peers saw me as a leader in the service of others — a perception I regard as my greatest success. 

In October of 2018, I was informed by physicians of my need to return to New York for urgent surgery. Following all the instructions from my seminary advisor, I obtained permissions for a brief, six-week leave for surgery and recovery which Cdl. Dolan approved in writing.  

Just before my departure for surgery, I witnessed inappropriate physical behavior committed by vice-rector Fr. Adam Park, a priest of the archdiocese of Washington who was ordained by ex-cardinal McCarrick and was later secretary to Cdl. [Donald] Wuerl. Father Park initiated this contact with a seminarian assigned as his advisee (as such, Fr. Park had power over whether or not this seminarian would advance toward priesthood). The seminarian later divulged to me that Fr. Park made other physical contact described as "hurtful." I also received other reports among NAC classmates alleging inappropriate behaviors by the vice-rector. One classmate, apparently distressed by his own knowledge, stated to me the urgency of reporting and investigating what multiple students have known and observed of Fr. Park. I was also informed that a seminarian was portraying behaviors of "crying out for help" during a formation conference on sexual abuse of power.  

Cardinal Dolan wrote to inform me that the NAC rector, Fr. Peter Harman, spontaneously wished to discontinue my return on the basis of fabricated claims against my 'permission documentation' and 'human formation' which could easily be disproved by evidence.

During my recovery from surgery, I kept up with all of my studies daily with the support of my professors, and I purchased my return ticket to Rome. Five days before I was to return to the NAC, Cdl. Dolan wrote to inform me that the NAC rector, Fr. Peter Harman, spontaneously wished to discontinue my return on the basis of fabricated claims against my "permission documentation" and "human formation" which could easily be disproved by evidence.

Image
Fr. Adam Park, NAC vice-rector

In response, I requested on five occasions to meet with the cardinal to state my case. This meeting would have allowed me an opportunity to provide him documentation refuting the concocted statements made against me and to present evidence of Fr. Park's alleged misconduct. I also submitted to the cardinal testimony from a seminary psychologist who wrote in my defense, "Anthony has always demonstrated an excellent character ... I believe that it is so important for our Church to continue to form such emotionally healthy young men." Despite my appeals and those of professional witnesses, Cdl. Dolan's response was to deny all of my five requests for a meeting.    

I knew in good faith that I could not be complicit with demonstrably false terms, which I believed represented a cover-up of what I knew of the vice-rector. I informed Cdl. Dolan that, in the absence of an impartial investigation into my case that would rectify the falsities, I could do no other than in conscience resign under duress as a seminarian of the archdiocese of New York and the NAC.

In the correspondence, I expressed to the cardinal my concern about a toxic environment at the NAC when I wrote, "I believe that an environment in which a seminarian is maligned by his superiors and not given the chance to bring the truth to transparency is harmful to his preparation toward the priesthood." Cardinal Dolan's brief response was a handwritten, food-stained letter stating that he accepted my resignation. 

Following Cdl. Dolan's correspondences, many supporters wrote letters to the cardinal imploring that I be given a chance to present my evidence and clear my name of the false claims against me. Multiple documents prove that the cardinal has been in receipt of the allegations of misconduct surrounding Fr. Park. Instead of calling for an investigation into this very serious matter, it seems that both the cardinal and Fr. Harman are attempting to cover it up.

Amid the copious letters Cdl. Dolan has received urging for an investigation, he went as far as writing to my parents of his decision to "discard the correspondence" they sent him in which they kindly asked him to examine what "ulterior motive" may have led to the injustices taken against me.    

Some [Church officials] ... have even denied knowledge of these reports, despite signed return receipts confirming delivery.

Amid pleas and messages that have emerged from the NAC stating that "the time is now" for action to be taken regarding Father Park's reported behaviors — and directed by evidence and testimonies that have come forward from seminarians — I or other concerned individuals have felt morally obligated to report this case for over a year and a half to the following responsible officials:    

  • Vatican Congregation for Clergy
  • Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga    
  • Cardinal Seán O'Malley (president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors)    
  • Archbishop Christophe Pierre (papal nuncio to the United States)    
  • Archbishop Bernardito Auza (former papal nuncio to the United Nations)    
  • all U.S. ordinaries    
  • Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting Service    
  • Board of Governors of the North American College   
  • Cardinal Timothy Dolan    
  • Archbishop Wilton Gregory (Father Park's ordinary)    
  • Bishop Thomas Paprocki (Father Harman's ordinary)    
  • Father Christopher Argano (vocations director of the New York archdiocese)    
  • Father James Ferreira (former priest-secretary of Cdl. Dolan)    
  • Father Thomas Devery (Pastor of Our Lady Star of the Sea, Staten Island, New York) 

Despite urgent requests to these clerics for an investigation and Church laws regarding mandated reporting, the matter has been left uninvestigated by Church officials. Some among this listing have even denied knowledge of these reports, despite signed return receipts confirming delivery.  

I ask the support of all readers to raise awareness about the horrific events based at the NAC, apparently covered up by responsible Church officials.

Faced with unyielding resistance toward any opportunity to state my case, other professionals and I became aware of the larger picture in which my case appears to stand. Just months, even days prior to the unfolding of my case, two other U.S. seminary rectors were forced to resign in 2018 amid accusations that misconduct was taking place in their seminaries. It seemed no mere coincidence that Fr. Park, of whom allegations have been made, is the NAC's Director of Human Formation — the very tool used to wrongly discredit me despite abundant evidence of my excellent standing. I observed a chilling parallel to events that already befell other seminarians punished for exposing the corruption they experienced.

Image
Fr. Peter Harman, NAC rector

Given my leadership at the NAC, I could not help but ask myself the following questions: Could the information I possessed regarding the behaviors of the vice-rector, Fr. Park, and apparent cover-up by the rector, Fr. Harman, have been perceived as a threat to their advancement in the Church? Might their fear have been the impetus behind a plan to extract me from the community on false grounds? Could Church leaders who were aware of my case and failed to ascertain the truth have been motivated by fear of having another seminary scandal exposed? 

How blessed it is to follow the call of the Lord, but how tragic when what the Lord has called is cut short by injustice. I grieve the loss of what I have treasured — a chance to study for Christ's priesthood. But has Christ at this moment led me to another mission no less priestly, to sacrifice for truth, despite the cost?  

Christ continues to call new generations to the priesthood, as I believe He called me. But how can we expect enthusiastic response when fervor for priesthood may well meet an appalling end? What stands before us is not merely a case of destruction apparently permitted and covered up at the NAC, but a larger picture — a crisis, repeated yet again, that imperils our hope for authentic, holy vocations to serve the people of God.  

I ask the support of all readers to raise awareness about the horrific events based at the NAC, apparently covered up by responsible Church officials. I also encourage anyone who may have information surrounding those involved in this case to come forward, even anonymously, so that an unbiased investigation may restore integrity and confidence in priestly formation.  

May good men and women take this chance to stand up for what is right, so that silence may no longer yield new generations of victims of shattered vocations.          

Sincerely in Christ, 
Anthony Gorgia

--- Campaign 31877 ---

 

Have a news tip? Submit news to our tip line.


We rely on you to support our news reporting. Please donate today.
By commenting on ChurchMilitant.com you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our comment posting guidelines