Delbarton Leaders: 'Mistakes Were Made' in Supervision of Former Headmaster Accused of Sexual Misconduct
By Kevin Manahan
January 17, 2012
|The Rev. Luke Travers, pictured in this file photo from April 1999, was replaced last week at an abbey in Virginia after a letter was sent to church officials outlining sexual misconduct claims by two male former students at Delbarton School in Morris Township.|
MORRIS TOWNSHIP — Officials for the Delbarton School and St. Mary's Abbey admitted yesterday "mistakes were made" in their monitoring of former headmaster Luke Travers, who violated restrictions placed on him after he was accused last year of sexual misconduct, according to religious officials in Virginia.
The Rev. Travers, 55, the headmaster at Delbarton from 1999 to 2007, was working as the administrative head of Mary Mother of the Church Abbey in Richmond, Va., when the two-decades-old allegations were made in June.
At that time, Travers was told an investigation was being launched and that he could not have contact with anyone under 25, could say Mass only for fellow clergy and could not have access to a car.
But Virginia religious officials say Travers said Mass to children, visited a local high school and had access to a car over the next seven months.
Last week, the Rev. Giles Hayes, the abbot at St. Mary's, which oversees Delbarton, insisted Virginia religious officials had been told about the restrictions in a phone call.
The bishop of the Richmond Diocese and an administrator at Mary Mother of the Church Abbey, however, refuted this, and yesterday, Delbarton officials accepted the blame.
"St. Mary's Abbey is responsible for him and for enforcing any restrictions that were placed on him, and they take that very seriously," spokesman Anthony Cicatiello said yesterday. "They are responsible, regardless of where he goes.
"Mistakes were made (by St. Mary's) and we're going to investigate and see where the errors occurred," he said, adding that even though officials in Virginia were notified about the restrictions, there were problems in following up to ensure Travers was abiding by the guidelines.
The Delbarton review board, which handles cases of alleged sexual abuse, met yesterday, but Cicatiello said the agenda was confidential.
When the allegations against Travers were made public last week, Travers was removed from his administrative post in Virginia. He has since returned to Morris Township, where he is under "close supervision," Cicatiello said.
Cicatiello said Delbarton's mishandling of the supervision and Travers' apparent violation of the restrictions would be "rolled into the overall investigation." He said the review board could take disciplinary action against Travers for ignoring the rules.
"All of this will be addressed as the investigation goes forward," Cicatiello said.
Communications from the review board, obtained by The Star-Ledger last week, also raise questions about how Delbarton has handled the investigation.
In an e-mail dated Jan. 10, Delbarton investigator and review board member Ann Ordway assured someone close to one of the alleged victims that "officials in Virginia are aware of the investigation and the allegations and an adult supervisor is assigned to accompany and supervise Fr. Luke when he is in that state. In NJ, there are adult supervisors who monitor Fr. Luke, and Fr. Luke must account for his whereabouts."
There is no evidence, however, that Virginia religious officials knew about the restrictions or that Travers ever had a chaperone, either in Virginia or New Jersey.
In an e-mail dated June 17, 2011, Simon Gallagher, an assistant to Delbarton's review board, assures the alleged victim that "(Travers') safety plan will be reviewed by me and others 6 times a month."
Gallagher concludes the e-mail by telling the accuser "thank you for making us aware of his outrageous conduct toward you."
Cicatiello said the investigation will determine whether anyone at Delbarton or St. Mary's Abbey checked on Travers and "how often."
Patrick Marker, the victims advocate who made the allegations public last week in a letter to the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, said Delbarton's admission didn't go far enough. He called for the resignation of Hayes.
"It was important to many people that the restrictions be in place for Luke Travers," Marker said. "But now another layer of the problem has been exposed — and that's the leadership at St. Mary's Abbey. The system is broken and the processes currently in place are flawed. The e-mail that Abbot Giles sent to Delbarton alumni last Friday was horrifying. It minimized every aspect of the victim's story and his pain.
"Abbot Giles and the abbey may have admitted to a mistake, but these are the mistakes that ruin people's lives." Marker said. "The cycle must be broken and the system changed so that healing may begin."
Two men have come forward to make allegations against Travers. The first alleged victim, who sparked the investigation, said he was an 18-year-old Delbarton student when Travers consoled him while his father was dying. Marker detailed the allegations in the letter to the Richmond diocese. In the letter, Marker said Travers offered the alleged victim alcohol, and hugged and kissed him on the neck and ears while he was a student at the elite boys school in Morris Township in 1990.
When the accuser returned for a visit as a college freshman, Travers asked him to run away with him, Marker said.
In a letter to the Delbarton community last week, Hayes called the allegation "a minor boundary violation with an adult."
He said "the conduct is not criminal" and has been reported to the Morris County Prosecutor's Office, which said it would be "inappropriate to comment." Travers has not been charged with a crime.
A second man accuses Travers of grabbing his crotch and butt and claims Travers also quizzed him about his sex life, according to Marker. Those incidents allegedly occurred in the early 1980s, while the student was about 14.