30 Accuse Monks of Sexual Abuse, Delbarton Says
By Abbott Koloff
July 25, 2018
Thirteen monks from St. Mary's Abbey, which runs the Delbarton School in Morris Township, have been accused of sexually abusing 30 people over the past three decades, according to a letter to alumni and other members of the school community.
Those who have come forward include former Delbarton students, the twin sons of a former Delbarton employee, a parishioner at St. James Church in Basking Ridge and former students of St. Elizabeth of Hungary School in Linden, which was staffed by the abbey, according to the letter.
"We take these accusations very seriously, and we profoundly regret and apologize to anyone who has suffered sexual abuse or harassment because of a St. Mary's Abbey monk or a Delbarton employee," the letter, sent on Friday, said.
It was signed by Abbot Richard Cronin, the head of St. Mary's Abbey of the Benedictine Order, and Father Michael Tidd, headmaster of the Delbarton School.
More: Former Delbarton teacher admits he had sex with 50 boys; school settles 5 sex abuse suits
More: READ: Letter from Delbarton leaders on sex abuse allegations
The letter refers to news stories that appeared in "recent weeks" about "litigation involving sexual abuse by monks of St. Mary's Abbey. We write to you today because we believe it is important to address these issues with you directly and forthrightly."
The Record published a story last month detailing 11 lawsuits alleging sex abuse brought against St. Mary's Abbey and the school since 2012. One priest, Timothy Brennan, a former teacher at Delbarton, was at the center of eight of the lawsuits. He was convicted 30 years ago of aggravated sexual contact with a 15-year-old Delbarton student and was sentenced to one year of probation.
Five of the lawsuits were settled this year while another six are pending.
Greg Gianforcaro, the attorney who represented the defendants in each of the 11 lawsuits, said Wednesday that additional men have come forward with accusations, some of them related to Brennan, who has been living at a treatment center for priests in Missouri for the past 15 years, The attorney declined to say how many people have come forward or whether they will lead to additional lawsuits.
The abbey and Delbarton issued a statement Wednesday night saying media reports about "settlements and ongoing litigation necessitated a response to our community."
They said they wanted the school community "to have a complete picture of how we are handling these very serious issues from the past, while also demonstrating that Delbarton and St. Mary's Abbey are a safe and welcoming environment for our students and for all those we serve." They added that they have implemented "comprehensive child and vulnerable adult protection policies."
In their letter, Cronin and Tidd wrote that since the late 1980s, 30 people "have courageously stepped forward" with accounts of sexual abuse that they said occurred between 1968 and 1999, alleging that they were abused by 13 monks and "one retired lay faculty member." The accused were not named in the letter.
The monks were removed from their ministerial positions when the the abbey learned of the allegations and were "barred from unsupervised contact with minors," Cronin and Tidd wrote. They said law enforcement authorities were contacted each time and one case resulted in a criminal prosecution. Most allegations were made after the criminal statute of limitations expired.
A total of eight cases have been settled since 2012, according to the letter, with all payments to victims coming from insurance coverage. The amounts of the settlements were not disclosed. "No donations to the School or Abbey, past or present, restricted or unrestricted, have been, or will be, used for settlements," Cronin and Tidd wrote.
They wrote that those who received settlements were free to discuss their cases. Abbey officials have said in the past that they follow the requirements of the Dallas Charter, a 2002 agreement by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to protect children that includes a ban on confidentiality agreements.
"No restrictions have been placed on the victims' ability to discuss their experiences," the letter said. "This is consistent with our belief that transparency may help the victims in their healing and help our community and broader society in preventing this from happening again."
Gianforcaro disputed that claim, saying the Abbey and Delbarton have placed some limits on what his clients may discuss publicly. And he pointed to the case of a man whose allegations led to the criminal complaint against Brennan 30 years ago.
The man settled a sex abuse lawsuit at the time but was not allowed to discuss the case until four years ago, two years after he filed a lawsuit seeking to be released from a confidentiality clause. The abbey and Delbarton agreed to settle the case in 2014.
"I do not believe that the Abbey and Delbarton are being as transparent as they claim," Gianforcaro said. He said that while his recent clients are free to talk about the abuse they suffered, they are "not free to discuss all of their experiences resulting from the litigation." He said he was not at liberty to elaborate on those restrictions.
In 2012, Gianforcaro filed a sex abuse lawsuit against the Abbey and Delbarton on behalf of Bill and Tom Crane, twin brothers who lived on the grounds of the school where their father was a teacher. That lawsuit was the first of 11 cases he filed.
Tom Crane said in court papers that he had been sexually abused by Luke Travers, who later became headmaster of the school, and another priest, the Rev. Justin Capato. Bill Crane Jr. said he was abused by Capato.
Travers, who is no longer a member of the order, continues to deny the allegations, his attorney, Gerard Hanlon, recently said. Capato was named in another suit, one of three complaints that were settled in May. He has denied the allegations, according to court documents.
The Cranes' complaints were separated into two lawsuits that the abbey and Delbarton settled four months ago.