Head of Elite Catholic School Is Fired Over Sexual Misconduct Charges

New York Times [New York NY]

April 12, 2021

By Liam Stack

The Rev. Daniel Lahart, the president of Regis High School, targeted multiple adults, including subordinates, an investigation found.

Regis High School, one of the most prominent Catholic schools in the country, said it planned to fire the Jesuit priest who serves as its president after an investigation found he had engaged in sexual misconduct involving several adults, including school employees.

The Rev. Daniel Lahart, who has been president of Regis, a prestigious all-boys school in Manhattan, since 2016, has been on administrative leave since late February, the school said in a statement. His firing will be effective April 21, the school said.

“The investigation is now coming to a close, and the board of trustees has determined, based on the findings of the third party investigator, that Fr. Lahart engaged in inappropriate and unwelcome verbal communications and physical conduct, all of a sexual nature, with adult members of the Regis community, including subordinates,” Anthony DiNovi, the chairman of the board of trustees, wrote in an email to the school community on Sunday.

He added: “This conduct was nonconsensual, and moreover, continued notwithstanding express requests from the affected parties for the conduct to cease.”

The removal of Father Lahart comes at a delicate moment for the Roman Catholic Church. All its dioceses in New York State are under investigation by the New York State attorney general, Letitia James, for its handling of sexual misconduct.

Last year, Ms. James sued the Diocese of Buffalo and three bishops connected to it over what her office described as a yearslong cover-up of clergy sexual abuse. Investigations into the other seven Catholic dioceses in the state are ongoing, and church officials say they have cooperated with investigators.

Mr. DiNovi said in the statement on Sunday that Father Lahart had declined to participate in the investigation, but he did not say which third party group had conducted it. Citing privacy rules, he said the school would release no further information about the investigation or its findings.

Regis High School said that its president, the Rev. Daniel Lahart, had engaged in “inappropriate and unwelcome verbal communications and physical conduct, all of a sexual nature.”Credit...Google Maps
Regis High School said that its president, the Rev. Daniel Lahart, had engaged in “inappropriate and unwelcome verbal communications and physical conduct, all of a sexual nature.”Credit…Google Maps

“Please know the board did not come to its decision lightly and took seriously its obligation to act with transparency, integrity and compassion in service of our community, both with respect to Fr. Lahart and to those members of our community who were harmed by his conduct,” he wrote. “We are committed to ensuring a safe, respectful and caring workplace for all current and future Regis staff members.”

Regis High School is the most prestigious Catholic school in New York, with a long list of notable alumni that includes Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and the actor Colin Jost. It does not charge tuition, and its graduates routinely go on to attend the top public and private universities in the country.

Mr. DiNovi said in the statement that Father Lahart would be replaced on an interim basis by Christian Talbot, a lay person with deep experience in the world of Catholic secondary education. Mr. Talbot previously spent 14 years on the Regis faculty.

Phil Klay, a Regis alumnus and Marine Corps veteran who won the 2014 National Book Award for Fiction, said Mr. Talbot had been his English teacher and was “quite important for me as a writer.” He said he thought Mr. Talbot’s appointment as interim president was a reassuring sign.

“I know that it gave folks some comfort to see him stepping into that role, since we have a lot of respect for him,” Mr. Klay said.

Liam Stack is a religion correspondent on the Metro desk, covering New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. He was previously a political reporter based in New York and a Middle East correspondent based in Cairo. @liamstack