At age 17, I entered minor seminary at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Overbrook, Pennsylvania. It was the fall of 2010. I was the second-youngest seminarian in the house. This seminary was known for its conservatism and "orthodoxy." College-aged seminarians were only allowed to leave the campus one day a week, on Saturdays. Masses were all Novus Ordo, though they were celebrated reverently. There was no internet access except in the library. As many of the students were "culture warriors," I did not make friends easily, if at all. Eventually, a mix of homesickness, loneliness and spiritual desolation led me to isolate myself.
One night, an older seminarian knocked on my door and asked to come in. I let him in, and he told me he wanted to talk. He was concerned about me, and how I was keeping to myself. I told him that I was struggling with seminary, and he told me that he was struggling too.
Then the conversation took a disturbing turn. He asked me if I ever masturbated. I was shocked and frankly appalled that he would ask me about my own experiences of chastity. He then told me that he struggled with masturbation and pornography. He kept asking if I masturbated, how I did it, what pornography I was into and creepier questions.
Frightened, I told him to leave. He then slouched in my chair, showing off his erection. I yelled at him to leave; he quickly apologized and left. I reported the incident to the neighboring seminarian who told me that this seminarian did similar things with my classmates. We all reported him to the Dean of Men, and he was expelled.
On Presidents' Day weekend, a seminarian in the theology division invited me, along with his clique, to his house for the long weekend. Since I did not make friends there easily, I accepted the invite, hoping it would help me socially. On entering his house, I was pressured numerous times to drink alcohol, even though I was only 18. After repeatedly telling him no, he told me that I couldn't stay at his house if I didn't drink. Eventually, I gave in.
I drank some sort of strange alcohol he claimed was from the Canary Islands. After I drank it, my throat burned and I ended up becoming heavily disoriented. As the night continued, I saw seminarians drink until they vomited, cuddle with one another and smoke. I went outside for fresh air, and one seminarian followed me. As I was talking to my mother on the phone, he groped me. I yelled at him and pushed him off. The rest of the night was filled with more alcohol and inappropriate "games." At some point, I fell asleep, and I woke up in a chair to find these seminarians sleeping in each other's arms. I called a cab and went back to the seminary alone.
I reported these events to my formation advisor, who told me I needed to be more "charitable" and "understanding." He told me the faculty largely saw me as a loner and that I would do well to "build fraternity" with the other guys in the house. I began to cry, realizing that my concerns would not be acted on.
I ended up leaving the seminary after my freshman year, before transferring to a four-year Catholic college. Although I remained in formation during my sophomore year, I left formation after a number of seminarians were kicked out for homosexual behavior, including sex with one another, frequenting gay bars and having pornography on their computers. I happily completed my undergraduate studies. Following graduation, I spoke with my spiritual director and realized I still very much had a desire to serve God as a priest. And so, in 2014 I entered major seminary at St. John's Seminary in Brighton, Massachusetts.
Once again, the seminary I was sent to prided itself on its "conservatism" and "orthodoxy," which in many ways was a convenient cover for homosexual behavior. I was told by a fellow seminarian that my room belonged to a seminarian who engaged in sodomy with a member of a religious order; both were expelled after being discovered by a priest on staff.
During my two years at this seminary, I witnessed in abundance inappropriate behavior by faculty and seminarians alike. 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." One faculty member got so drunk at a seminary party that he fell out of his chair. This same priest had a number of empty alcohol bottles in his room.
Alcohol abuse was a major issue there. Sometimes, late at night, I would come downstairs and find seminarians lying in one another's arms, stroking their hair. The deviant homosexual behavior reached its zenith when a "sexting scandal" occurred. One seminarian was sexting a number of other seminarians from an anonymous number. When it was brought forward, no action was taken toward the guilty seminarian.
Eventually, the homosexual subculture that masqueraded as "orthodoxy" was too much for me. I went to my formation advisor and reported what I witnessed and experienced. Neither the faculty nor seminarians who committed this misconduct were removed or disciplined. I also went to my vocation director, who told me he would report it to my sending bishop.
When it became clear that nothing in the seminary would change, I decided to leave formation. Following my departure, I also heard that an adjunct member of the seminary faculty left to seek treatment at a priest rehabilitation center following the revelation that he was having homosexual relations with a male parishioner, although I have no direct proof of that.
In both cases, I reported the misconduct to my formation advisors, going through the proper channels. The fact that my experiences (as well as others') went ignored is a common theme found in many abuse trials. Staying silent in the face of scandal, abuse and misconduct is what allowed this disgusting behavior to go on for so long. By keeping this behavior hidden, it only perpetuated the abuse.
I am now hearing rumors of threats of a lawsuit from St. John's Seminary in the wake of my public "outing" of the homosexual subculture there, with various faculty members considering suing me for libel — even though every word I've spoken is truth, and there are witnesses who can vouch for me.
During this #MeToo era, the words of Sacred Scripture are prophetic: "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil" (John 3:19).