Chaminade must live up to its motto: Answers and actions needed following sexual abuse allegations

By Charles Cowell, Anthony Ventura, Anthony Clark, James Cotter, Charles Givens, Ed Kless, Anthony Nota
New York Daily News
August 15, 2016

Chaminade High School

We are graduates of Chaminade, the Catholic boy’s high school in Mineola, L.I. All have, at one time or another, made charitable contributions to, or paid to attend events at or in support of the school.

We made lifelong friends there. The children of many of our closest friends are graduates or current students. Some of us worked there in the past. Some of our classmates are current or former teachers there, as well as at Kellenberg in Uniondale and St. Martin de Porres in Hempstead, schools also run by the same Marianist Province of Meribah that administers Chaminade.

We are not inclined easily to criticize publicly the school or its leaders; we are not detractors, opponents or enemies, but only seek answers to important questions.

We have been guided for decades by the ideals instilled in us during our four challenging years at Chaminade. We have tried to live up to the standards the faculty set for us as students and as men, and to which we believed they held themselves.

We had been proud of the school: proud to have attended, proud to have made it through, proud to think of the school as our alma mater, meaning “nourishing mother.”

We recently learned about how the school handled allegations of the sexual abuse of a student in 2011 by its then-president, Fr. James Williams. From what we understand, the school withheld information while it commissioned an “independent” investigation, and only much later communicated — incompletely — with parents, alumni and the public about the allegations.

We understand that the current school president described the allegations as “unequivocal” and “credible.” They were taken seriously enough that the Church stripped Fr. Williams of his priestly faculties and alerted the local district attorney. However, school officials, rather than answer more questions publicly, have suggested we contact the school individually, and privately.

We are concerned that school leaders handled this situation inappropriately, from fostering an atmosphere that allowed Fr. Williams to commit these acts, to conducting a private investigation, to the school’s ongoing lack of transparency.

We no longer feel the pride we once felt. We do not feel, because of what has happened, that Chaminade is our alma mater. While the fact remains that we are graduates, we are not alumni — a word that shares the same Latin root as “alma,” and means “foster sons.”

We have decided that none of us will give the school material support of any kind until several things change, including: greater disclosure about Fr. Williams’ actions and how exactly the school responded to them; answers to why it took so long for the school to inform parents and alumni of what had happened; details of how the school will work toward preventing this from happening again; and a commitment from the school to be more forthcoming in the future.

We ask ourselves if we failed the victims (if we have learned anything from the decade and a half since the revelations from Boston it’s that there likely is to be more than one victim).

We ask if we were complicit by our support of the school as graduates — trusting in the assumed integrity of the school’s leaders.

We believe that neither Fr. James Williams nor the current leaders of Chaminade met the standard of its motto: “The Chaminade Man does the right thing at the right time because it is the right thing to do, regardless of who is watching.”

We no longer offer our support at a distance. We offer our close, public scrutiny, in order to hold the school’s leaders accountable — just as they held us accountable as students and as men.

Cowell and Ventura graduated from Chaminade in 1983; Clark, Cotter, Givens, Kless and Notaroberta graduateed in 1984.



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