Boston Church Official: We Told of Priest's Past
But College, Charlotte Diocese Priest Still Say History Was Kept Secret
Charlotte Observer (North Carolina)
May 16, 2002
The Archdiocese of Boston said it told Belmont Abbey College about allegations of inappropriate intimate contact made against a Boston priest before the college hired him in 1997 to head its theology department.
The college insists it did not know about the allegations before hiring the Rev. George Berthold.
Donna Morrissey, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, told the Boston Globe Wednesday that church officials had notified the college and the Diocese of Charlotte "verbally and in writing" that Berthold had been accused of inappropriate physical behavior with adult seminarians when he was dean of the undergraduate college at St. John's Seminary in Brighton, Mass., in 1995.
Morrissey said the notifications were made before the college hired Berthold, but she wouldn't make public any of the notifications.
Contacted late Wednesday by the Observer and told of the Globe's article, college spokeswoman Teresa Sowers McKinney said the college stood by its earlier comments. story.
Janette Blandford, the Belmont Abbey professor who chaired the committee that hired Berthold, said Berthold told the search committee he was interested in moving from St. John's to the Gaston County college because he wanted a warmer climate.
"Considering everything else that has happened in the church, I'm outraged," said Blandford, who chairs Belmont Abbey's philosophy department. "The circle just widens. I can't believe it would extend right down to here. Somebody flat-out lied."
McKinney said Berthold was released from his contract after Belmont Abbey was notified in the fall of 1998 that he was no longer in good standing as a priest.
Wednesday night, the Rev. Anthony Marcaccio, vice chancellor of the Charlotte Diocese, released the following statement: "Information that the Archdiocese of Boston shared with us did not indicate that Father Berthold should be prevented from ministering to children or vulnerable adults."
Contacted late Wednesday by the Observer, Charlotte Diocese spokeswoman Joann Keane declined to elaborate, and said Marcaccio was unable to comment.
The college is located in the Charlotte Diocese, but is considered an independent institution.
No complaints of sexual misconduct were made against Berthold while he was at the Abbey, McKinney said. She also said there have been no charges of sexual misconduct by Abbey faculty.
From the fall of 1997 to October 1998, Berthold taught 10 theology courses.
Blandford said the committee that hired him was impressed by his charm, credentials and world travels. Also, she said, "We were desperate to get a theologian."
Though she never heard any allegations regarding his behavior, Blandford said she heard complaints from students about his teaching - and in turn, heard Berthold complain about the quality of the Abbey's students.
Blandford said she didn't know until now why Berthold had been dismissed from the Abbey.
Two months after Berthold became dean of St. John's undergraduate college, he was accused of making improper advances toward a freshman, including kissing him on the lips. He was also accused in 2000 of molesting a boy three decades ago in Massachusetts, according to the Boston Globe.
Since 1999, the Boston archdiocese has listed Berthold as "unassigned." Reached in New Hampshire by the Boston Globe, Berthold, 67, refused comment.
McKinney said the college recently conducted sexual harassment classes for administration, faculty and staff.
A Catholic priest, Berthold wasn't a Benedictine monk or part of the Abbey's monastery. He lived in Charlotte instead of at the Abbey campus 14 miles west of Charlotte, McKinney said.
In an unrelated development, a seventh case of alleged sexual misconduct has been reported by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte.
Keane said Wednesday that an accusation against a religious brother who has since died has been turned over to civil authorities in the county where it allegedly occurred. The case is from the 1980s.
A religious brother is a member of a religious community who takes vows of obedience, poverty and chastity. They serve the church in several ways, but they are not ordained and can not preside over Mass.
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