Baltimore Catholic school teacher under investigation for alleged sexual abuse of minor in '80s
By Yvonne Wenger And Christina Tkacik
August 22, 2018
A former longtime teacher at Mount St. Joseph High School is under investigation for the alleged sexual abuse of a minor in the mid-1980s, according to his religious order.
The Xaverian Brothers, a lay order, has removed Brother Robert Flaherty from ministry while an investigation by the state’s attorney’s office is ongoing, according to a statement by Brother Edward Driscoll, the congregation’s general superior. Flaherty was a teacher at Mount St. Joseph, a Catholic school in Southwest Baltimore, from 1972 to 1993 and from 2008 to 2010.
Flaherty was suspended last week from his teaching job at St. John’s Preparatory School in Danvers, Mass., where he worked from 1999 to 2007 and again beginning in 2010.
The Xaverian Brothers sponsor both Mount St. Joseph and St. John’s.
Detectives from the Baltimore Police Department opened an investigation in April into an allegation of abuse, according to police spokesman Detective Jeremy Silbert.
Melba Saunders, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore state’s attorney’s office, declined to comment on “an open and pending matter.”
Driscoll said the brothers were informed by Baltimore police of the allegation and are cooperating with the prosecutor’s investigation.
The allegations come as the Catholic church is reeling from a devastating grand jury report alleging that hundreds of priests abused up to 1,000 victims in Pennsylvania.
Mount St. Joseph’s President George E. Andrews Jr. said in a letter to the school community that the allegation does not involve a current or former student at the all-boys school, which is known for its athletics. The school learned of the allegation after city civil authorities notified the Xaverian Brothers, Andrews said.
“The safety and wellbeing of our students is paramount at Mount Saint Joseph,” Andrews said in the letter. “We routinely review and implement policies, procedures, and trainings to ensure that safeguards are in place to protect our students. If anyone has knowledge of misconduct of any kind, we urge you to come forward and to report it immediately to civil authorities.”
Flaherty served as a Mount St. Joseph teacher both before and after he became a brother.
Driscoll said Flaherty joined the brothers in September 1979 and, after completing a year of training, took his vows in 1980. Flaherty taught in Kentucky from 1994 to 1999.
“The Congregation is saddened when it learns of an incident, even one that occurred decades ago, and recognizes that the effects of abuse can be life-long,” Driscoll said in the statement.
Under its protocols, the congregation works to respond promptly to sexual abuse allegations and participates in an independent review board with other religious congregations of men that provides public accountability outside of the Xaverian leadership, according to Driscoll. The brothers also offer intervention, care, treatment and other services, he said.
Flaherty could not be reached for comment.
The Xaverian Brothers is rooted in the Roman Catholic Church but is separate from the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The brothers are members of a consecrated lay order.
Sean Caine, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said the church has received no prior reports of abuse by Flaherty.
“It is common for people to come forward with allegations of past abuse at times like these, when so much attention is given to the Church’s last problems with child sexual abuse,” Caine said in a statement. “We encourage anyone who was abused or suspects others have been abused to report it to the police and, if the suspected abuser worked for the Church, to let us know.”
At St. John’s Prep in Massachusetts, Flaherty helped establish the computer science department, according to a 2013 report on the school’s website. The article notes that Flaherty had been inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame at Mount St. Joseph High School, his alma mater. Flaherty was honored for his contributions as a football, ice hockey, basketball and baseball coach at Mount St. Joseph, the piece says. He also has coached students at St. John’s.
Flaherty earned a bachelor’s of science in engineering mechanics from Virginia Tech and a master’s in engineering mechanics from the University of Tennessee, according to St. John’s website. He also holds a doctoral degree in computer education from Nova Southeastern University.