Brother Liguori Resigns from Fordham Amid Sex-abuse Allegations
July 21, 2012
|Former Iona College president James A. Liguori is pictured in March 2009, when he was named the Westchester Business Leader of the Year. / Journal News file photo|
Brother James Liguori, the former president of Iona College in New Rochelle and a current top administrator at Fordham’s Westchester campus, has resigned amid accusations that he sexually abused a teenage boy in 1969, Fordham officials announced in a statement Friday night.
“On Thursday, July 19, 2012, Fordham University learned that an advocacy group has claimed a lawsuit alleging child abuse was filed in 2008 against Brother James A. Liguori, associate vice president and executive director for Fordham Westchester,” the statement read. “Brother Liguori passed a criminal background check in fall 2011, when he was hired by Fordham. University officials began investigating immediately, and on Friday, July 20, Brother Liguori submitted his resignation, effective immediately.”
A network of sex-abuse victims announced Thursday that a California man had accused Liguori of sexually abusing him. The alleged victim, who lives in Orange County, Calif., claimed that Liguori abused him in 1969 at the Cardinal Farley Military Academy in Rhinebeck, N.Y., according to a release from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Liguori is a member of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers, and it was the religious order’s bankruptcy case, filed last year as the order’s assets were being drained by sex-abuse cases, that opened the window for the case to emerge, according to Joelle Casteix, SNAP’s western regional director.
As part of the case, the court allowed six months for any creditors to make claims against the order. The alleged victim used that opportunity to file a claim, despite the fact that statutes of limitations would prevent a civil lawsuit on the matter, Casteix and the man’s attorney said.
The victim first reported the abuse in 2008, said his attorney, Joseph George of Sacramento. The Christian Brothers said in a statement Thursday that no other claims had been filed against Liguori in his 53 years of service. The order said the 2008 case was “swiftly and thoroughly investigated by an external agency” which found it to be unsubstantiated “due to major inconsistencies.”
Those included witnesses provided by the accuser who did not corroborate the claims.
George did not return several calls placed later Thursday and Friday. Casteix did not return calls Friday.
Fordham, which is associated with the Jesuit order, not the Christian Brothers, said Friday it had begun its own investigation.
“Fordham University takes any claim of abuse with the utmost seriousness. The University’s primary concern is always for the victim in such cases, and our hearts and prayers go out to anyone who has suffered a violation of their person and dignity,” Fordham said in its statement.
George has said his client had been abused in “a couple of isolated incidents” when he was 16 and attending the school. George said Liguori, was a faculty member at the school, but served as “sort of a mentor” to the victim.
George said Thursday that the claim, sent to the order on Wednesday, is based on a fraud accusation over payments for therapy. Christian Brothers officials indicated they would cover the costs when the man first reported the abuse in 2008, even though the order said the allegations could not be substantiated, George said. They then balked because the victim wanted two or therapy sessions a week and they only wanted to pay for one weekly visit, he said.
Liguori resigned Friday as associate vice president and executive director for Fordham University’s Westchester campus. He was unavailable for comment Friday. He retired from Iona College last year after leading the school for 17 years.
The Christian Brothers order filed for bankruptcy last year, after it had agreed, in recent years, to pay tens of millions of dollars to sex-abuse victims, and while it still faced dozens of claims in the Seattle area and Canada.
In a court filing, Brother Kevin Griffith, vice president of the Christian Brothers’ Institute, said the lawsuits are draining the order’s “not unlimited financial resources” and that the order “needs a breathing spell from this Court to resolve the claims asserted by the plaintiffs in the lawsuits, as well as to liquidate assets in an orderly fashion to satisfy legitimate claims.”