Delbarton Ex-Headmaster 'Under Tightest Restrictions' after Sex Abuse Allegations
By Kevin Manahan
February 26, 2012
|The Rev. Luke Travers was replaced after a letter was sent to church officials outlining sexual misconduct claims by two male former students at New Jersey's Delbarton School.|
|Brian Kvederas sits on his front porch in Bridgewater. He says former Delbarton headmaster Luke Travers tried to seduce him when he was a high school student in a religious education program presided over by Travers.|
BERNARDS — Not long ago, the Rev. Luke Travers strolled the sprawling bucolic grounds of Delbarton School as the high-profile headmaster of the exclusive Morris Township all-boys academy, sought out by the rich, famous and politically connected who wanted their sons enrolled.
Now, according to school officials and others familiar with the case, Travers is a virtual prisoner who rarely leaves the grounds, and when he does, he must be chaperoned.
Four men have come forward to say they are victims from decades ago as an eight-month investigation continues into Travers' alleged sexual misconduct. When the allegations were made public last month, Travers was exiled from a Virginia abbey, where he had been working, and sent back to Morris County. Abbot Giles P. Hayes, who runs St. Mary's Abbey and the private school, said Travers "is and will remain under the tightest restrictions" at the abbey.
No criminal charges have been filed, and the allegations are outside the statute of limitations. If the investigations yield no criminal charges, but religious officials nonetheless determine a monk has violated his vows and victimized teen boys, abbey officials must decide: What do they do with him?
Interviews with canon law experts reveal that abusive monks who escape criminal charges often are dealt with secretly — quietly exiled to far-away monasteries designed to keep troublesome clergy from the public. Some are never heard from again.
"They're sent to ecclesiastical penal colonies," said canon lawyer Patrick Wall, a former Catholic priest, Benedictine monk and now an advocate for victims of clergy sex abuse.
Spokesman Anthony Cicatiello said the abbey would not speculate on Travers' fate "when there is an ongoing investigation." Travers has not returned several messages seeking comment, and Cicatiello said Travers would not comment on the allegations.
For now, Travers probably will remain in seclusion while his guilt and ultimate fate are decided, religious experts say. Monks can be dismissed from monastic life, but Wall and Richard Sipe, another canon expert, believe that is unlikely. They predict Travers will remain a Benedictine, but might be sent out of the country.
"They'll keep him on the boat, unless he is an absolute maniac," Wall said. "But there might be complications.
"He's been around for a while, so, he knows all of the abbey's business. He knows where any bodies are buried. They don't want to expel him and risk him talking."
Even if monks are sent to the ends of the Earth, they must obey, because obedience is part of their vows, said Sipe, a former monk and priest who is now an author and researcher into clergy sexual abuse. But if a priest has inside information about undisclosed sexual misconduct by others at the abbey or school, he could use that as "a bargaining chip" to obtain a transfer to a preferable location, Wall said. Research shows clergy with sex abuse allegations often are sent to isolated monasteries in Rome, Japan or the Bahamas, where they are allowed little or no contact with the outside world. Sometimes there is a stop at the Vianney Renewal Center, a center for clergy being treated for sexual deviant behavior, located in Dittmer, Mo., or a similar facility in Silver Spring, Md.
Before Travers' fate is decided, abbey officials will hear from alleged victims, national Benedictine leadership, lawyers, psychologists, doctors, the abbey's insurance companies and public relations consultants, Sipe said.
"But in the end, Giles Hayes, the abbot, has complete power," Sipe said. "He'll get input from others, but he has the last word, and my guess is he'll want to make this go away — quickly and completely."
The abbey's review board will offer an opinion, but that panel "can only make recommendations," Wall said.
Joseph Longo, a 1980 Delbarton graduate and fundraiser who has a son at the school, said he trusts school officials to do the right thing.
"They have handled similar cases before, and they sent those guys away," Longo said. "I expect them to handle this with due diligence."
David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the investigation is taking too long and that abbey officials are "deliberately dragging their feet."
CALLING UPON CHRISTIE
Sending Travers away is not enough, victims advocate Patrick Marker said. In a Jan. 23 letter to Gov. Chris Christie, whose son attends Delbarton, Marker called upon Christie "as a parent, husband, lawyer and governor … to put an end to deceptive, destructive and disingenuous practices" at St. Mary's Abbey and Delbarton School.
Marker, who says he has spoken to all four alleged victims, called upon Christie to "request a special prosecutor" to conduct an investigation into all allegations of sexual misconduct involving the abbey and school.
A Christie spokesman said the governor would have no comment.
"The Governor's Office received Mr. Marker's letter and referred it to the attorney general's office and asked them to reply directly," spokesman Michael Drewniak said in an e-mail.
Marker said he has not received a response from state Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa. Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, said Marker's letter "will be directed to the appropriate people here for review."
Other developments indicate Abbey and school officials are huddling with lawyers and public relations consultants, who will help draft a lengthy statement that will say St. Mary's Abbey never again will allow any of its monks under investigation to escape its supervision — as Travers did in Virginia. Also expected in that statement is an apology to victims and advocates, who were outraged when Hayes referred to one allegation as a "minor boundary violation."
Victims advocates are calling for Hayes' resignation, and they have threatened demonstrations outside Delbarton's gates and at local churches where Travers ministered.
The statement, delayed because Hayes has been ill, would be another step in damage control.
Recently, the school removed from its website a six-minute promotional video that heavily featured Travers. In it, Travers said that when he goes out into the community, he is greeted warmly by people "because they know how much we care, they know how devoted we are, how dedicated we are, how dedicated we have been …"
School officials have sent home e-mails and have held assemblies to encourage parents, students and alumni not to speak to the media. Outside organizations with connections to Travers are scrubbing, too. Officials at two private schools — Peck School in Morristown and Oak Knoll School in Summit — said Travers resigned from their boards of trustees last month.
HIS FOUR ACCUSERS
Four men, two of whom are unnamed former Delbarton students, have come forward to make allegations against Travers.
The first man, who sparked the investigation in June, said Travers kissed and hugged him, nibbled on his ear, said he loved him and wanted to run away with him in the 1990s.
The allegations were made public in a letter to Virginia religious officials by Marker, a Washington-based advocate who is connected to underthegreenwave.com, a website devoted to revealing alleged sexual abuse at Delbarton.
A second man, also through Marker, said his crotch and butt were grabbed by Travers in the 1980s, when the man was approximately 14, Marker said.
A third accuser, Brian Kvederas of Bridgewater, told The Star-Ledger that Travers tried "to stick his tongue into my mouth" after an emotional confessional session at St. James Church in Basking Ridge in 1986 or '87. Kvederas said he was a high school senior at the time.
In a notarized statement obtained by The Star-Ledger, a fourth man said Travers kissed him during a confession in a secluded room during a youth retreat at a Cedar Knolls church when the man was 16.
Cicatiello said all the allegations have been rolled into "the internal investigation … already under way."