Two Accused Priests Enter Trinity House Retreat
By Judy Silberstein
August 31, 2006
New York Archdiocese priests credibly accused of sexually abusing children,
but not legally convicted, are being offered the option of life-long close
supervision that begins with a stay at Larchmont's Trinity House Retreat.
According to Joseph Zwilling, spokesperson for the archdiocese, since
a new program's inception in June, seven priests received options. Five
resigned from the priesthood; one arrived at Trinity House a few days
ago, and another is on his way.
Attention was drawn to the program this week after some media outlets
received copies of a June letter to the priests from Cardinal Edward M.
Egan and began publishing reports. (See: The
New York Times: A Choice for New York Priests in Abuse Cases.) The
Larchmont Gazette began receiving inquiries and comments early Thursday
morning, though most local officials and neighbors of the Trinity House
declined to comment. (See Appalled
at Alleged Sex Abusers Being Sent to Trinity Retreat.)
The program calls for either leaving the priesthood or leading a "life
of prayer and penance because of inappropriate behavior in the past,"
said Mr. Zwilling, when contacted for explanation. Participants are generally
of "advanced age or infirmity" and their cases have been reported
to the local district attorneys where the abuse allegedly occurred and
reviewed by the archdiocese and by Rome. While residing at Trinity House,
the two priests will be under "close supervision" as they undergo
psychological evaluation at St. Vincent's Hospital in Harrison that will
determine their next placement and further treatment, said Mr. Zwilling.
Technically, Trinity House Retreat is in New Rochelle, though its postal
address is Larchmont, 10538. It sits only a few feet back from Pryor Manor
Road, adjacent to the (white-painted) " Red Bridge" and wedged
between the Premium Mill Pond and Long Island Sound in an upscale residential
area. Retreat patrons are likely to be found garbed in robes and sandals
strolling through the neighborhood. Friar Benedict Groeschel, a cofounder
of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal with his own EWTN Cable Television
show, has long been affiliated with Trinity House, which hosts a range
of spiritual programs. (See: Trinity Retreat on the Franciscan Friars
[Note from BishopAccountability.org: We cached a copy of
the Trinity Retreat Web page on 9/1/06]
Local authorities had not been apprised of the archdiocese program. Detective
Lt. Christopher Hearle of the New Rochelle Police Department said his
office had not been notified, but that only legally convicted abusers
would be required to register under NY law. "Our people were not
aware of this program," said Lucian Chalfen, spokesperson for the
Westchester District Attorney. He said a long-standing agreement with
the NY Archdiocese calls for notifying Westchester if any archdiocese
employee has been accused of sexual abuse or other sexual misconduct.
There has been no notification this year.
The new program for alleged abusers was also news to Father Brian McWeeney
of Larchmont's Sts. John and Paul Church who said, "This behavior
brings pain to every religious person – that someone would violate the
tenets of the faith and cause irreparable damage." However, he was
not concerned that the two priests would be in Larchmont. Given his knowledge
of some Trinity House personnel and their compassion and knowledge of
human behavior, "I'm more concerned with those people who are without
supervision and care," he said.
"We want it dealt with – but not in our community," said Father
Brian. "But it has to be dealt with in someone's community. Here
we have control over the situation."