Lawsuit to Allege Sexual Misconduct at Delbarton
By Abbott Koloff
March 19, 2012
Two former Morris County men plan to file a lawsuit Tuesday against the Delbarton School alleging sexual misconduct by former headmaster Luke Travers and another monk, their attorney said on Monday.
Greg Gianforcaro, a Phillipsburg attorney, issued a news release Monday afternoon announcing the lawsuit and a news conference to be held Tuesday morning in front of the courthouse in Morristown. He offered few details and said the identities of the men alleging the abuse would not be revealed until Tuesday.
Gianforcaro said the two victims, both minors at the time the alleged abuse occurred and now in their 40s, are expected to attend the news conference along with several victims’ advocates including Pat Marker, who lives in Washington state and runs a website devoted to allegations against Delbarton monks.
The suit includes allegations of misconduct against Travers and the Rev. Justin Capato, another St. Abbey’s monk, Gianforcaro said. Officials at St. Mary’s Abbey, which runs the Delbarton School, declined in a prepared statement to comment.
“The Abbey does not publicly comment on any pending legal matter,” spokesman Anthony S. Cicatiello said in the statement. “At a later time, we will determine what comment, if any, is appropriate.”
Gianforcaro, while declining to disclose details of the accusations, said the suit alleges the leadership of Delbarton and St. Mary’s did not do enough to stop minors from being abused. In 2005, he represented two dozen people who received a $5 million settlement from the Paterson Roman Catholic Diocese over allegations of clergy sexual abuse within the diocese.
“I’m arguing that the school and St. Mary’s Abbey had an obligation and should have protected children,” Gianforcaro said Tuesday.
St. Mary’s officials previously acknowledged that they have been investigating another allegation of sexual misconduct against Travers. Last year, another man told St. Mary’s officials that Travers kissed him on the neck and ears in 1990 when he was an 18-year-old Delbarton student and in need of emotional support after his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Abbey officials said earlier this year that Travers is not allowed to celebrate public Mass or spend time with students and other young people while the matter is investigated. They described the allegations as a “minor boundary violation.”
Travers was removed as the part-time administrator of a Virginia abbey earlier this year after Marker sent an email to church officials there, along with various media outlets, to let them know about the allegations.
Hugh Anderson, president of the American Cassinese Congregation, part of the Benedictine order, said at the time that he was aware of St. Mary's investigation but decided to remove Travers because Marker’s email contained references of another allegation of sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old boy.
Travers, 55, had been headmaster of Delbarton from 1999 to 2007 and taught history there until two years ago. He continued living at St. Mary's while traveling to Virginia twice a month for the past two years.
This was not the first time St. Mary’s officials have dealt with allegations of sexual misconduct. Abbey officials announced in 2004 that they had punished a priest and a deacon in connection with two sexual abuse cases.
Timothy Brennan, a priest and former Delbarton teacher, pleaded guilty to criminal sexual contact in 1986 with a 15-year-old student and was committed to a sex offender treatment center in 2004. In 2002, St. Mary’s officials said they sent Brennan to live for a time at a New York state abbey, without telling local diocese officials.
Robert Flavin, another former teacher and a deacon, was slated to be laicized in 2004 as a result of allegations of sexual misconduct with an 18-year-old Delbarton alumnus from 1981. Abbey officials have said that just one St. Mary’s official was aware of the allegations until 2002, when they became widely known.
Abbott Koloff: 973-428-6636; firstname.lastname@example.org