St. John's Seminary Investigated for Alleged Misdeeds

by Gjergji Evangjeli

 

Amid the scandals of Archbishop McCarrick coming to light, especially his conduct regarding seminarians, another revelation rocked the Archdiocese of Boston regarding St. John’s Seminary. In an article dated August 1, John Monaco, a former seminarian at St. John’s, recounted his experiences at a minor seminary in Ohio as well as his two years at St. John’s in an article which appeared in OnePeterFive

 

During this time, Monaco claims, “Some priests on the faculty would get drunk with a select group of seminarians and invite them into their rooms late at night.” He specifically recounts that a priest on the formation faculty was so inebriated that he fell off his chair during a seminary party. In addition, Monaco recounts that one seminarian was expelled after he was discovered to be engaging in sexual activity with a member of a religious order and that he “would come downstairs to the common room late at night and find seminarians cuddling with each other—drunk, of course.” Furthermore, Monaco reports that while he generally kept to himself, “rumors of seminarians hooking up with each other and faculty members grooming homosexual seminarians with lavish gifts abounded.”

 

In response to these and similar claims, Seán Cardinal O’Malley released a statement dated August 10, where he claimed he had received word that two former seminarians had posted in various social media—“including the Archdiocese’s Facebook page”— that “during their time at the seminary they witnessed and experienced activities which are directly contrary to the moral standards and requirements of formation for the Catholic priesthood.” In addition, Cardinal O’Malley asked the Rector of St. John’s to go on sabbatical for the fall semester and appointed a three-person panel made up of Mark O’Connell, Auxiliary Bishop of Boston, Dr. Francesco Cesareo, President of Assumption College, and Kimberly Jones, CEO of Athena Legal Strategies Group to oversee the investigation into “the allegations ..., the culture of the seminary regarding the personal standards expected and required of candidates for the priesthood, and any seminary issues of sexual harassment and other forms of intimidation and discrimination.” The investigation would also be staffed by Mark Dunerdale, director of the Archdiocesan Office of Professional Standards.

 

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On August 17, Monaco published an open letter appearing in OnePeterFive regarding the investigation. In this letter, he pointed out, “First, my complaints regarding St. John’s Seminary were not specifically about sexual abuse; they were about general misconduct, scandalous behavior by faculty and students, and an overall unhealthy seminary culture.” He continued, “should the investigation be focus exclusively on the issue of sex and sex abuse, it will be relatively easy case to dismiss.” Instead, he focused on the issue of drunkenness at the seminary and highlighted that he was also concerned about the fact that his previous attempts to report these issues to the seminary hierarchy went unheard. He also complained about the appointment of Bishop O’Connell—a former member of the seminary faculty—to lead the investigation.

 

Speaking to a gathering of over 300 archdiocesan priests at the parish hall of St. Julia’s Church on August 28, Bishop O’Connell informed the clergy that “Emmanuel College president Sister Janet Eisner has been natured head of the investigative committee,” per The Pilot’s report. In addition, Bishop O’Connell reported that the inquiry will encompass “the past five to six years, and its priority will be to ensure protocols are being properly implemented.”

A former seminarian that The Torch was able to speak with also alleged that there was a culture of unhealthy drinking at the seminary. He was optimistic about the investigation.

 

A current seminarian, who spoke with The Torch on condition of anonymity said that morale at St. John’s was high and that the investigation had not affected the seminarians in a serious way. He said that, during his time at the seminary, he had not noticed any grave departures from the faith or morals of the Church and that he and the others seminarians are confident that they are being formed as God and His Church want.

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