Clergy Probe Expanding: Two More Seminaries Scrutinized
By Sean Philip Cotter
October 12, 2018
|WESTON, MA. - AUGUST 28: Cardinal Sean O'Malley leaves St. Julia Parish after meeting with clergy members, August 28, 2018, in Weston, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Angela Rowlings/Boston Herald)|
The Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has brought on a high-profile former U.S. attorney as it expands its investigation of sexual misconduct from one to all three of the area seminaries in a move critics pan as “spin control.”
Along with the investigation into St. John’s Seminary, where two former seminarians in August alleged sexual misconduct took place, the probe will also cover Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston and Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Chestnut Hill.
“I have concluded that to meet the generally expected levels of transparency and accountability, it is best to expand the review to include all three seminaries,” Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, said in a statement yesterday. “I want to reassure the seminary communities and the wider public that these are institutions committed to the highest standards of integrity, respect and safety for our seminarians, faculty and staff.”
The archdiocese said it has not heard allegations of impropriety at the other two seminaries.
Two former seminarians wrote Facebook posts two months ago that detailed sexual impropriety they said happened at St. John’s. The archdiocese quickly placed Monsignor James P. Moroney, the rector of St. John’s Seminary, on sabbatical leave for this semester as a group assembled by O’Malley looked into the claims.
O’Malley said that in the weeks that followed, “consultations” with various people about the archdiocese and the three seminaries it sponsors led him to expand the probe. The law firm of Yurko, Salvesen & Remz will handle the investigation, led by former U.S. Attorney Donald K. Stern, who made his name prosecuting Boston mob figures in the 1990s.
Critics pounced on this announcement, saying it raises further suspicions.
“A publicly announced investigation is not something that’s done lightly,” said Peter Borre, a layman who founded the Council of Parishes in Boston.
Attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represents victims of sexual assault, said, “It’s spin control. They should have released all documents over to the AG and provided answers to any questions.”
The past few months have proved turbulent for the Catholic Church — and specifically O’Malley, who faces accusations that he ignored claims of sexual abuse against now-disgraced former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
Since that news broke in August, some local church activists have called on O’Malley to resign. O’Malley chose not to travel with Pope Francis to Ireland the week after the St. John’s news broke, and then he convened an emotional archdiocese-wide meeting of priests the following week to address the seminary investigation and the cover-up accusations against himself.