Catholic order’s list of accused shows past of mishandling abuse allegations
By Josh Sweigart
July 31, 2020
Photo by Curt Dennison
A Dayton Daily News investigation into the Society of Mary’s handling of alleged abuse of children by its members found the religious order concealed allegations against some from parents, students and school officials.The order released a list this summer of 46 priests and brothers its leaders say sexually abused children since 1950, but critics say the disclosure falls short.
U.S. Marianist leader Provincial Fr. Oscar Vasquez has admitted that mistakes were made in the past in how the order handled abuse claims.
“In a spirit of sorrow and accountability, and with a sincere desire for reconciliation and healing, we are confronting the darkness of these sins,” he said in a statement released along with the list.
A group critical of how the Catholic church has handled abuse claims, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, has called for the Marianists to do more. The organization wants the Marianists to release more information about the accused, including photos, current whereabouts and when the order learned of the allegations and to work more aggressively to seek out additional victims and perpetrators.“Fr. Vasquez cannot passively sit back and wait for the phone to ring now that this information has been released,” SNAP said in statement.
The Society of Mary’s ties to Dayton go back 170 years. The order founded what is today the University of Dayton and Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School. The order’s Cincinnati province was headquartered in Dayton until all of its US provinces merged in 2002.
The Dayton Daily News investigation found:
Marianist leaders learned in 1993 that a brother who had recently died was accused of abuse at Chaminade. They were told again in 2005. But the order didn’t tell the local school leaders until November 2019, at which time the school notified alumni and asked victims to come forward.
Another man on the list was active in local Catholic schools until shortly before his death in 2016. The order won’t say when they learned of allegations against him.
The Marianists placed an admitted child molester in a home next door to Chaminade Julienne’s Dayton campus for him to live from 1997 to 2011 without telling the high school’s leaders about the man’s past.
A brother pleaded no contest to disorderly conduct over allegations he fondled a student in Pittsburgh; the man continued teaching in several U.S. schools until he moved to Dayton, where he died in 2006.
The list of accused Marianists released by the order this summer doesn’t include several men accused of abuse and misconduct, including some identified by Catholic dioceses as being accused of abuse.
The list released by the Marianists names 46 priests and brothers who Vasquez says abused children somewhere in the United States since 1950. It does not specify when or where the abuse occurred. It does list the places the men were assigned, but doesn’t say when they were there.
Nineteen of the listed men worked in Dayton at some point, including 15 who were assigned to the Cincinnati Province headquartered in Dayton. Chaminade Julienne officials say 13 of the men worked at the school or its all-boys-school predecessor Chaminade, all prior to 1999. University of Dayton officials say eight worked there, all prior to 2012.
Order didn’t disclose local men
Only one of the cases involves a “credible claim” of abuse that occurred locally, according to Chaminade Julienne officials. They say the Marianist order notified the school in November 2019 that Bro. Francis Russell is accused of abuse while he was assigned to Chaminade in the 1965-66 school year.
“The report of abuse was made to the Cincinnati Province in 1993, which was after Russell’s death,” school officials wrote in a advisory to parents in November. “A follow-up report was made in 2005. With this information, the Province sent a letter this week to Chaminade alumni who were in the building during the 1965-1966 school year to make them aware of the report and to invite them to also make a report if they wish to do so.”
This was the second time last year Chaminade Julienne alumni received such a letter. The Society of Mary in April 2019 sent a letter to former students after the Dayton Daily News found that a former CJ teacher was sent to prison in 1986 for molesting students in Cleveland after becoming a Marianist.
The Dayton Daily News contacted Chaminade Julienne after finding a photo of the man, Bro. Paul Botty, in CJ’s 1978 yearbook. The letter did not result in any additional claims of sexual abuse, according to Marianist officials. Botty is on the recently released list.
Chaminade Julienne officials say they were unaware before the release of the list of six other Marianists who previously worked at the school and were accused of abusing minors elsewhere.
Priest active locally until 2016 death
In response to questions from the Dayton Daily News, Chaminade Julienne officials announced that one of these men was Fr. Joe Tedesco, who was active in local Catholic schools until shortly before his death in 2016.
Tedesco was the interim parochial administrator at Emmanuel Catholic Church – the chapel abutting the school — from September 2010 to July 2011 and presided at school masses “from time to time,” the school said in a July 2 announcement.
“As a member of the Marianist community, it is likely that he was present on campus as a guest during his time in Dayton,” the statement says. “One known occasion was when he was the presider at an event hosted by the Dayton Marianist Family Council on a Saturday in October 2015.”
A 2017 Marianist newsletter says Tedesco introduced the sport of sport of lacrosse to Carroll High School, Chaminade Julienne and Archbishop Moeller High School.
Carroll High School Principal Matt Sableski said in an email to the Dayton Daily News that Tedesco was an occasional consultant over the years. He helped the school create the student House System in 2016.
“For his contributions, our House Cup was named in his honor. Under the circumstances however, our House Cup will be renamed immediately,” Sableski wrote.
“Fr. Tedesco was not an employee of Carroll High School and had very limited interaction with students over the years,” he wrote “The reported incidents did not involve any member of our community past or present.”
Tedesco also taught psychology at the University of Dayton. UD officials say he had no official position at the school nor lived on campus after 2012. But he was an advisor to the Beta Theta Pi fraternity from 2010-15.
‘It’s not enough’
Both Chaminade Julienne and Carroll officials urged anyone with a report of abuse to contact the Society of Mary.
“Certainly, we are pained that the process of disclosure and transparency of the evil of sexual abuse by Marianists has been delayed for far too long,” Chaminade Julienne President Daniel Meixner told the Dayton Daily News. “We are grateful to the current provincial leadership for their commitment to transparency and for the safeguards they have implemented over the last twenty years to protect those they serve.”
SNAP officials, however, say the order needs to disclose how long they have known about allegations against people like Tedesco and what they did when they learned about it.
“I’d like to see these Catholic orders do something like we’ve come to know these days as ‘contact tracing,’” said Dan Frondorf, director of SNAP in southwest Ohio.
“It’s not enough to simply release a list and then say you’re sorry. These orders and dioceses have the capability to compile lists of potential victims of their known perps, and they should reach out to every child, now as adults, who may have been exposed to these perps to see if they may be silently hurting,” Frondorf said. “The next step after that is to offer some form of meaningful compensation, counseling, and restoration, even if the crime is time barred by current (statutes of limitations), and to put zero conditions on receiving that help.”
Vasquez noted that the order wasn’t under any requirement to review more than 2,500 member personnel files and release the list, but did so “with a sincere desire for reconciliation and healing.”
“We knew from the outset that this release would not meet the expectations of some. We also recognize that strong policies, and even publishing this list, cannot undo the anguish inflicted on victims, survivors, and their families,” Vasquez wrote in an email to the Dayton Daily News. “For that, we are deeply sorry.”
Abuser placed in house next to CJ
One of the men on the list is Bro. Bernard Hartman, who the Society of Mary placed in a house next door to Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School after he admitted to the order’s leaders in 1997 to abusing children in Australia, the Dayton Daily News found.
Hartman lived there until the allegations became public in 2011. He was convicted in 2015 in Australia of sexually abusing three children in the 1970s and 1980s. He served three years in prison, after which the Marianists moved him to a nursing home near St. Louis. He is required to register as a sex offender and remains on what the order calls a safety plan.
The house where Hartman lived has since been replaced with a parking lot for the school.
Hartman told the Dayton Daily News in a phone interview last year that he had no interactions with Chaminade Julienne students and posed no risk to children there.
When asked if the community had a right to be concerned about him living next to a high school, he said, “It’s none of their business. I took care of what I had to.”
Hartman, 79, answered several questions before hanging up. “I paid my price by going to Australia and faced the accusation, whether guilty or not,” he said.
Hartman also taught at the former Chaminade High School in Dayton from 1961 to 1963, before its merger with Julienne High School. No allegations have been reported from that time.
Hartman and Vasquez said the decision to place Hartman near CJ was reviewed by the accreditation firm Praesidium, which the Marianists and other orders use to review their child-protection and safety practices.
Accused Marianists not on list
The Marianists in April 2014 sent letters to former students of schools where Hartman had worked. This led to nine Marianists being accused of abuse in one Pittsburgh-area school. Of those nine, Hartman and four others previously worked in Dayton at Chaminade Julienne or Chaminade, before going to Pittsburgh. Two others worked at the University of Dayton.
Two of the nine do not appear on the list released by the Society of Mary.
The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh confirmed to the Dayton Daily News that it received one allegation each against Bro. William Kiefer and Bro. James Kline in 2014.
According to his 1997 obituary in the Dayton Daily News, Kline taught at Chaminade High School before going to Pittsburgh and afterwards came to the University of Dayton in 1947 where he worked several jobs including purchasing agent and food service director until he retired in 1993. He lived at a Marianist center on UD’s campus until he died.
Four other Marianists not on the order’s list are named on a list released in 2018 by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles of priests and brothers “credibly or publicly accused.”
Asked about these omissions, Vasquez said he would not discuss individual cases but pointed to their published criteria about adding names to the list. It says names are listed if the allegation occurred since 1950, in the United States, involved children and is considered substantiated by the head of the order.
“We felt it important to formalize a process in which we address allegations consistently and fairly, while also respecting the privacy that victims and survivors deserve,” Vasquez said.
The guidelines say that a payment made to a civil settlement doesn’t necessarily mean that an allegation was substantiated, nor the dismissal of the Marianist from the order.
Zach Hiner, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called the newspaper’s findings “both confusing and distressing.”
“Time and time again, lists are released to the public, and time and time again those lists are proven to be incomplete by survivors who have to come forward, again, when their abuser is not listed,” he said.
“Sure, the order or diocese will update the list — typically quietly without any public notice — but just once I would like to see an exhaustive list put out that includes every single name that is publicly available. Clearly the Marianists failed in this and hopefully other religious orders will learn that continued hairsplitting will be recognized, pointed out, and made public.”
Order hid abuse
Some of the men on the list of show how far the order’s previous leaders went to cover up abuse allegations, the Dayton Daily News found.
Police arrested Bro. Anthony Parlangeli in 1971 after he told a high school student in Hollywood, Florida, they were going on a field trip, but instead took the 15-year-old boy to a hotel, “gave him sleeping pills without his knowledge and subsequently sodomized” him, according to a lawsuit filed in Broward County, Florida.
Police and court records show Parlangeli was charged with “committing a crime against nature” and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of administering drugs illegally. The boy was “told that he was suffering from food poisoning,” court records say.
Court records allege his father, the school principal and the Rev. Chris Conlon were all aware of what happened. Conlon was head of the Marianist community at the Florida school at the time.
Conlon later served as UD director of campus ministry from 1988 to 1998 and chaplain after that, retiring from UD in 2013 and moving to California, where he died in 2017, according to his obituary.
The victim learned what happened to him in 1992 when he saw, for the first time, the hospital records from the incident.
Parlangeli continued to teach at the Florida high school and was “eventually reassigned to a Marianist community house in Baltimore, Maryland, where he sodomized another boy and was thereafter released from his vows,” court records say.
The Marianists and Archdiocese of Miami reportedly settled the suit.
The Dayton Daily News conducted a series of email interviews with Vasquez last year as part of an investigation into the religious order’s handling of sex abuse claims. In a previously unpublished interview, the newspaper asked about Parlangeli case. Vasquez responded: “The court records show that the case is shameful.”
Another Marianist brother on the list with Dayton ties was allowed to teach for nearly two decades after he was convicted following accusations he molested a student in Pittsburgh, the Dayton Daily News found.
Bro. Ralph Mravintz pleaded no contest to a disorderly conduct charge related to sexual contact in 1986 at North Catholic High School in Pittsburgh.
Mravintz was back in the classroom the next year, first at a Marianist school in Tennessee and then at two schools in Florida. He taught full time until 1993 and part time until 2004 in Florida, according to his obituary. He died in Dayton in 2006.
When they added Mravintz’s name to the list, the Society of Mary altered online versions of their public death notices of members like Mravintz to remove details about when they worked in specific places, the Dayton Daily News found.
Vasquez said this was done “to protect the privacy of survivors.”
A version of the original death notice is archived on the Bishop Accountability website, which tracks clergy sex abuse.
Asked by the Dayton Daily News last year why Mravintz was permitted to keep working with children after his conviction, Vasquez said: “Looking back, this decision is regrettable and would not be the one taken at present.”
The Marianists said there is no record of Mravintz abusing children after his arrest. But the order did receive in 2014 an additional allegation against Mravintz, claiming abuse from 1962-63 when he was at the Pittsburgh school.
Mravintz taught across Ohio before his arrest — including at schools in Cincinnati and Hamilton, according to his death notice. He served at UD from 1965 to 1974 as director of admissions. There are no known allegations against Mravintz during his time there, according to a UD spokeswoman.
‘Journey towards healing’
The order has changed to take a more critical view of its members and their actions, its leaders say.
The order works with Praesidium, a 25-year-old national organization based in Arlington, Texas. It specializes in helping groups that work with young people, such as churches, schools, recreation and sports groups, and child-care centers.
Meeting the requirements for Praesidium’s accreditation is demanding, Vasquez said.
“In the past two decades, the province has taken significant measures to ensure a safe environment for those with whom we minister. Our policies and procedures are designed to provide the necessary safeguards for those entrusted to our care and prevent future abuse,” he said.
“We recognize that strong policies, and even publishing this list, cannot undo the anguish inflicted on victims, survivors, and their families. We believe that this is an important step on a long journey towards healing.”