CINCINNATI (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Jesuit priest in Ohio recently got fired after allegedly sending an inappropriate text to a male high school student.
In February, Fr. John Ferone, S.J. was fired from St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, where he served as director of Adult Faith and Ignatian Programming.
A student at the all-male Jesuit high school reported to school officials that Fr. Ferone sent him a text message that was sexual in nature.
When school administrators received the student's complaint on February 15, they put Fr. Ferone on leave, investigated the claim and reported the incident to law enforcement. Father Ferone was subsequently fired on February 23.
A local source, who wished to remain anonymous, alerted Church Militant about the story in an email to the tip-line. In further discussion, he wrote, "This story breaks my heart because I love St. Xavier very much (and am an active supporter). But I am a firm believer that sunlight is the best disinfectant."
In the wake of media attention, a press release from a school spokesperson said the following:
On February 15, 2018, St. Xavier High School was made aware of an inappropriate communication between Fr. Ferone, a staff member at the school, and a student. In accordance with school policy, we took the following actions:
1) We immediately removed Fr. Ferone from all contact with students and placed him on administrative leave.
2) We notified the student's parents.
3) We notified the Springfield Township Police Department and presented them with all information known to us.
At the conclusion of the school's investigation, on February 23, Fr. Ferone was terminated from St. Xavier High School.
The safety of our students remains our highest priority.
Church Militant was sent the same press release after asking for comment.
Local law enforcement investigated but has not pressed charges. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph Deters explained to local news that is seems like the text message might have been sent to the boy inadvertently. He said, "Based on what we know now, there's not going to be any criminal charges."
"If we need to follow up, we will," he added.
Deters did not disclose the content of the text message.
Father Ferone was involved in a Catholic LGBTQ retreat in October 2017. It took place at the Sisters of Charity Retreat Center on the Westside of Cincinnati and was run by the Marianist Social Justice Collaborative (MSJC).
A brochure for the retreat stated, "The MSJC LGBT Initiative Team has been working hard to coordinate with our presenters to provide a quality, faith-filled and affirming experience for all of our retreatants. Join us as we spend the weekend learning how to build a welcoming community."
Saint Xavier High School is known locally for its academic rigor and, to a lesser extent, its successful sports teams. This can be a tough reputation to uphold in a city with several large, all-boys Catholic high schools.
Local Catholic high schools have longstanding rivalries with one another. There is a strong sense of competition in everything from sports to academics to alumni associations. Locals often have a lifelong loyalty to their high school, attending high school football games throughout adulthood and staying in close contact with fellow alumni.