|Marist Brother Found Guilty of Child Porn Possession; Brother Gordon Worked As Assistant Principal in Archdiocese of New York
November 28, 2011
Shortly before the Thanksgiving holiday the New York Post reported on the arrest of Brother Lawrence Gordon on charges of possessing child pornography. Gordon, a Marist brother, was once an assistant principal at a prestigious boys school in the Bronx. That school is Mount Saint Michael Academy which proudly states that its philosophy is to “cooperate with families as they strive to fulfill the responsibility given to them by the church, specifically the Christian education of their children”.
The families of children who attend Mount Saint Michael learned that the school failed miserably in their duty to live up to that responsibility. According to reports Brother Gordon had inadvertently left his USB drive in one of the schools computers. The USB drive, left in the computer on Valentine’s Day, was filled with images of child pornography, specifically images of underage boys. A teacher at the academy found the images; fortunately a child at the school was spared the trauma of viewing the photographs, which may have included pictures of children his own age.
The discovery of child pornography, a crime in the state of New York, was not reported to the District Attorney’s office until sometime in March, weeks after the USB device was found. Parents of children who attend the academy were not notified until last week, a full nine months after school officials learned that their assistant principal possessed child pornography.
Brother Gordon made an agreement with the Bronx District Attorney’s Office in which he pled guilty to ten counts of possession of child porn. In exchange for his plea Gordon will be forced to undergo psychiatric treatment for one year. Upon the completion of his treatment he will then be allowed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor and will be placed on probation. Gordon will not spend one day in jail. The DA’s office indicated that the delay in arresting Gordon was due to a serious medical condition that resulted in his hospitalization.
Gordon will be receiving his treatment at St. Luke’s Institute located in Silver Spring Maryland. St. Luke’s is one of several in house facilities that church officials have been sending priests and religious to for decades. Sex offending clerics have been routinely sent to St. Luke’s for “treatment”, and then returned to parishes where they were given continued access to children. Their website states “we seek healing, recovery and, whenever possible, a return to healthy ministry for those who come to us”.
In a letter to parents the school’s principal Brother Stephen Schlitte downplayed the seriousness of what was found on Gordon’s USB drive, referring to the pictures of child porn as “inappropriate images”. Schlitte also stated that “there are no allegations of misconduct against Brother Gordon in relation to his conduct with students of the Mount or any other persons”. Schlitte is apparently not including the children whose naked images were taken by producers of child pornography and then saved by Gordon to his USB drive as “other persons” who Brother Gordon violated.
Mary Caplan, the director of SNAP in New York City, noted that this case is “eerily similar to one in Kansas City where top Catholic officials kept silent this year about a priests child porn photos, hundreds of them, for at least five months”. Mary is right, this case is “eerily similar”, and it resulted in the indictment of Bishop Finn, the bishop of Kansas City, for failure to report child abuse. Finn later struck a deal with the prosecutor of Clay County Missouri and agreed to enter a diversion program to avoid criminal prosecution.
Mount Saint Michael’s Academy in the Bronx is located in the Archdiocese of New York. Ironically, the archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, was in Rome this weekend for his ad limina visit to the Vatican. Dolan was present when Pope Benedict XVI addressed the bishops and stated that the Catholic Church must be held to “exacting” standards in its response to the sexual violation of children. He clearly articulated that the sexual abuse of children was a “scourge” on all of society and that “just as the church is rightly held to exacting standards in this regard, all other institutions, without exception, should be held to the same standard”.
Archbishop Dolan should heed the Pontiff’s words and immediately reach out to the parents, staff, and students of Mount Saint Michael Academy. He should encourage them, if they are aware of any suspicious conduct by Brother Gordon, to report those suspicions to law enforcement officials. Dolan should also demand that the Marist Brothers, who operate St. Michael’s, turn over all reports of sexual abuse by members of the Marist Brothers to law enforcement for review. The Marist Brothers, who work in the archdiocese of New York, need Dolan’s permission to operate St. Michael’s Academy.
Dolan should also require that the Marist brothers provide him, and the community, with an explanation as to why the police were not immediately contacted when images of child pornography were found at the school. It is clear that the “exacting” standards of which the Pope referred to are not being followed in Dolan’s diocese.
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