Fordham Administrator Resigns in Wake of Abuse Lawsuit
By Connor Ryan
July 21, 2012
Br. James A. Liguori, associate vice president and executive director of Fordham’s Westchester campus and former president of Iona College, submitted resignation today, after being linked to a child sex abuse lawsuit in a claim released by Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) Thursday.
“Br. 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, Br. Liguori submitted his resignation, effective immediately,” Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of the University, said in a statement. “The University takes any claim of abuse with the utmost seriousness. Fordham’s primary concern is always for the victim in such cases — it could not be otherwise. I know that you keep anyone who has been so victimized in your thoughts and prayers.”
The suit charges that Liguori sexually abused a boy, now identified as John Doe, in 1969 while Doe was a student at the Cardinal Farley Military Academy in New York, according to the statement. The Irish Christian Brothers, a New Rochelle-based Catholic order (now known as the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers), ran the school at the time of the alleged abuse. Liguori is a member of the order.
Doe reported the abuse to officials in 2008, but his allegations were pushed aside as Irish Christian Brothers found Doe’s allegation “unsubstantiated due to major inconsistencies,” according to a statement sent to the Pelham Patch. A lawyer for the diocese, however, reportedly said that she believed the allegations to be true.
“It’s not often that church officials come out and say that they believe a victim,” Joelle Casteix, western regional director of SNAP said in the statement. “But then to have the Irish Christian Brothers instantly claim the allegations were without merit and refuse to reach out to other potential victims is reckless and callous.”
The order has since declared bankruptcy after “more than 50 child sex abuse lawsuits in the United States and more than 200 in Canada,” according to the statement. “The order has also been rocked by sex abuse scandals in Ireland.”
Doe was reportedly 16 when a “couple of isolated incidents” occurred, Joseph George, Doe’s lawyer, told LoHud.com. George said his client’s claim was born from sexual abuse and 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 told the news site.
A dispute apparently ensued as Doe and the order attempted to determine how often Doe needed therapy sessions. The order was pushing for once every week, while Doe was pushing for twice or three times per week, according to LoHud.com.
In light of the announced bankruptcy, the New York Bankruptcy Court announced in January that all victims of Irish Christian Brothers must come forward before Aug. 1, 2012, the SNAP report said. After that date, “many victims of [the order] will no longer have rights in the courts.”
Iona College, where Liguori was president for 17 years, said in a statement Thursday: “The college is not part of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers North America and is in no way connected to their bankruptcy filing and related allegations.”
Before working at Fordham and Iona, Liguori was principal of Rice High School in Harlem, headmaster of Iona Prep, associate superintendent of schools in the New York Archdiocese and the superintendent of schools in the Newark Archdiocese, according to SNAP.
SNAP is asking the Irish Christian Brothers to reach out to all of the schools Liguori has previously worked at to “help” other possible victims before the Aug. 1 deadline. This, however, is the first publicly known allegation against Liguori.