Jesuits Seek Information on Contact by St. Joe's Prep Teacher in 1970s

By Martha Woodall
Philadelphia Inquirer
January 9, 2013

The Jesuits have told the Philadelphia district attorney that they received a credible allegation that one of their priests had inappropriate physical contact with a student at St. Joseph's Preparatory School in North Philadelphia in the 1970s.

The Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus said Tuesday that a former St. Joe's Prep student reported that the Rev. Stephen M. Garrity - a graduate of the school - engaged in inappropriate sexual touching while teaching at the school from 1971 to 1979.

Bill Avington, St. Joe's Prep spokesman, said Tuesday that the private Catholic boys' school had notified more than 9,000 members of its community, including alumni and parents, of the allegations against Garrity.

The student, who has requested anonymity, reported the allegations to provincial officials in Towson, Md., last fall and has been offered counseling.

The Jesuits said Garrity, 73, has not been in the ministry since 2007, when he was removed as pastor of Holy Cross parish in Durham, N.C., for sexual misconduct with adults. He now lives in a monitored community with other Jesuits.

Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for the province, said outside investigators reviewed the former student's account and determined that it was credible.

The Jesuits notified the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office last month. Tasha Jamerson, office spokeswoman, said no criminal action could be taken because the statute of limitations has expired.

"We commend the victim for his bravery in coming forward," Jamerson said.

The Jesuits have not closed the case, though. Gibbs said the Provincial Review Board was continuing its investigation and had not yet made a formal recommendation to the Rev. James M. Shea, who leads the Maryland Province.

As part of the effort to gather more information, the Jesuits have notified all of the schools and dioceses where Garrity had worked since 1964, including Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C., and Scranton Prep.

Avington said Garrity, a Philadelphia native, joined the Jesuits after graduating from the school in 1957.

During his Jesuit training, Garrity returned to the school to teach English and history from 1964 to 1967.

After pursuing graduate studies in Maryland and Washington, Garrity again was assigned to St. Joe's Prep in 1971, and taught sociology throughout the decade.

In addition, Garrity was school chaplain from 1975 to 1978. And while living in the Prep community, he worked with new Jesuits from 1974 to 1977.

He next became the province's vocations director at the Loyola Center in Philadelphia from 1978 to 1982.

The Jesuits are asking anyone with information with inappropriate conduct by Garrity to contact local authorities and Maureen Locher, special case investigator for the Maryland Province, at 443-921-1326.

The Maryland Province, which extends from southern New Jersey to Georgia, includes about 300 Jesuits.


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