Priest Scandalizing Students

News: US News
by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  September 11, 2020   

Archdiocese turns deaf ear

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ATLANTA ( - The Atlanta archdiocese is failing to correct a priest who allegedly has been scandalizing university students for years.

Current and former students at Georgia's Kennesaw State University (KSU) tell Church Militant the archdiocese has yet to address the many concerns they brought to the attention of archdiocesan officials back in March regarding unpriestly behavior of Atlanta's Fr. Joseph Morris. As head of KSU's Catholic Center, Morris has reportedly been scandalizing students there for years.

The students' detailed report of accusations against Morris includes:

  • Making his own bread for use at Mass
  • Leaving many sacred particles on the floor while distributing Holy Communion
  • Discrediting the use of the St. Michael prayer, Rosary and brown scapular
  • Telling students in confession that masturbation and cohabitation are not sins
  • Watching porn-laced Game of Thrones at Morris' home with alcohol present
  • Massaging the shoulders of female students without their consent
  • Hugging and inappropriately touching students
  • Throwing a spiritual book he rejected at a female student
  • Spending Catholic Center money on his personal show called Mark's Gospel Live

The complete list, which includes many more examples of unpriestly behavior by Morris, was signed by more than 20 KSU students as well as other attendees of the Catholic Center. It was taken by several students on March 14 to Atlanta's auxiliary bishop Bernard Edward (Ned) Shlesinger. According to the students, Shlesinger not only covered for Morris but blamed students instead.

Fr. Morris' show, in which he animates Gospel passages

The students report that during the meeting, Shlesinger "compared us to Pharisees."

Bp. Bernard Shlesinger III

Bishop Covers for Priest

Regarding the unsolicited touching of women's shoulders, the students recount the bishop telling them "that as long as Fr. Joseph was caressing women's shoulders in pubic it was not as much scandal as it would be if it was in private." The bishop further informed one of the females at the meeting that it was her job to "confront Fr. Joseph" if the priest made her feel uncomfortable.

Regarding the female student, who had a spiritual book thrown at her in disgust by Morris, Shlesinger held her accountable. The bishop reportedly told her "she was to blame because they should not have been passing out a book without his (Morris') approval." The bishop's response reportedly made the girl break down and cry.

Shlesinger disregarded the viewing of Game of Thrones by students at Morris' home. Students recount the bishop simply compared the nudity in the show to that found in the movie Brother Sun, Sister Moon, an examination of the life of St. Francis of Assisi. Students tell Church Militant, however, that Morris allowed students to view the explicit sex scenes in Game of Thrones on his screen without making any attempt to fast forward past them.

The bishop, when confronted with Morris' many liturgical abuses, simply brushed them off by reportedly saying they weren't "as bad as what was going on in the '80s so we should be grateful for that."

Morris allowed students to view the explicit sex scenes ... without making any attempt to fast forward past them.

He further added that it sounded like Morris "just had really bad formation."

Morris was formed at Chicago's notorious Catholic Theological Union (CTU), then under the auspices of Chicago's notorious homopredator and homo-recruiter Cdl. Joseph Bernardin. Morris graduated from CTU in 1995 before being ordained for Atlanta in 1996.

The late Cdl. Joseph Bernardin

One of Morris' theological errors brought up by students back in March was denying the gravity of sin, especially involving impurity.

The students recount in their detailed report given to Shlesinger that Morris says such things as, "You can have the dirtiest mind in the world, but if you do not physically commit the act it is not a sin."

Things reportedly got worse over the summer instead of better. Following the meeting in March, Shlesinger emailed the president of KSU's Catholic Center, telling them, he had "no concerns about Fr. Joseph's behavior." Students say the bishops did, however, tell Morris that he "was no longer allowed to touch students."

Tweeting Nudes

But on Aug. 26, KSU student Ellie Hicks discovered Morris' reportedly secret Twitter account revealing that Morris had shared partially nude pictures of a current public figure in a disparaging manner. Asked about the morality of sharing such pictures publicly, Morris reportedly downplayed.

Hicks told Church Militant that Morris "tried very hard to say that the pornographic images he posted were 'just nudes' and not porn." She says Morris also threatened to sue her for exposing it.

Free clip from CHURCH MILITANT Premium

Hicks, who just came into the Church earlier this year, is now asking that Morris resign.

"I have found forgiveness in my heart toward Fr. Morris, but because of this and his many liturgical abuses, his inappropriate behavior toward students, and for the scandal he has caused our community, my one request was that he resign and follow the penance he chose for himself," she remarked.

Morris says such things as, 'You can have the dirtiest mind in the world, but if you do not physically commit the act it is not a sin.'

She recounts first turning to the bishop to solve the matter but because he would not, she has now turned to the media for help.

"I came to the bishop with my fellow students thinking that this would be dealt with in a timely manner," said Hicks, "rather than in a manner where we would need media attention to actually see a conclusion or consequence."

Church Militant did reach out to the Atlanta archdiocese and to Fr. Joseph Morris for comment but have yet to receive any response.

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