Report: Man studying to be priest uploaded child sexual abuse videos using Cincinnati seminary’s IP address

WCPO - ABC 9 [Cincinnati OH]

March 11, 2024

By Craig Cheatham

Former seminarian Broderick Witt faces 15 criminal charges

A former seminary student used the IP address of the Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Cincinnati to repeatedly upload videos of naked children being sexually abused, according to police and court records.

Broderick Witt, 28, allegedly shared the material online from November 2023 to February 2024, according to his 15-count indictment.

“It’s extremely concerning,” Theresa Dinwiddie-Herrmann told the WCPO 9 I-Team.

Herrmann is a co-founder of the nonprofit Ohioans for Child Protection. The group pushes the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for more transparency.

“We continually hear that they are trying to make changes that protect our children, but these things come up again and again,” Dinwiddie-Herrmann said. “Until we clean it up, the Church is going to suffer and children are going to suffer.”

Catholic church records show Witt interned for at least three Catholic churches; Saint Ann of Groesbeck, Our Lady of the Rosary in Greenhills, and St. Albert the Great in Kettering. Social media photos show he worked with children.

Pastors of those parishes have been “ministering to their parishioners as appropriate,” according to Archdiocese Director of Media Relations Jennifer Schack.

The archdiocese declined to answer the I-Team’s questions about its internet security.

“The seminary and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati have strict policies against, and take significant precautions to prevent, anyone from possessing or accessing [sexually oriented] material of this type, regardless of whether they are a student, faculty, or staff,” St. Mary’s Rector Rev. Anthony Brausch wrote in a statement on the archdiocese’s website.

The I-Team asked local and national online security experts about issues related to the case.

“Your IT professionals should have safeguards in place whether you’re using your own device or a company-owned device,” Jay Houston said.

Houston, a former commander of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force in Mississippi, is the current Security Director for the national nonprofit Child Rescue Coalition.

The national nonprofit helps build technology for law enforcement, free of charge, so police can track, and arrest child predators, according to the group’s website.

“If I was the IT guy for any organization and this happened — no matter the organization — I would definitely revisit my IT policies,” Houston said.

The I-Team also visited Nexigen, a cybersecurity and IT management company in Newport.

“When we do tests and evaluations of companies, we usually find within the first hour or so that we have complete control of their network and moving through it,” Nexigen Sr. Security Engineer Ty Braunwart said. “It’s that bad.”

Braunwart, who is also a forensic investigator, hasn’t examined the seminary’s internet security but, he said, many organizations and businesses lack the technology to track, stop and prevent child sexual abuse material from being shared on their network.

“That costs money and time, which most companies will not invest,” Braunwart said.

Braunwart showed us how easily people can alter codes and images to avoid being flagged by internet security.

It’s unclear if the archdiocese uses online filters that are expected to block child sexual abuse material and, if so, how easy it is to bypass them.

Dinwiddie-Herrmann said the Church needs to make sure it does everything it can to protect children online.

“I think people forget that these are victims and that they can be re-traumatized for the rest of their life,” she said.

If you have information about missing or exploited children, you can help by contacting the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.