Deceased St. Bonaventure Friar, Former Archbishop Walsh Principal Accused of Abuse

By Tom Dinki
Olean Times Herald
April 11, 2019

The Rev. James Cairnan Haggerty (from left) and the Rev. Gervase White, deceased friars who served at St. Bonaventure University, were accused of abuse. They are among more than 20 accused priests whose names were never released by the diocese, according to diocesan documents obtained by WKBW.

Two now-deceased friars, who both served in administrative positions in the Olean area’s two most prominent Catholic educational institutions, were reportedly accused of abuse.

The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo reviewed allegations last year against the Rev. Gervase White, a prominent St. Bonaventure University friar, and the Rev. James Cairnan Haggerty, a principal of Archbishop Walsh High School, according to diocesan documents reported by WKBW Wednesday evening. Both were accused by a different man.

White and Haggerty, according to the report, are among more than 20 accused priests whose names were never released by the diocese despite allegations against them being reviewed last June by the Diocesan Review Board, which reviews abuse claims for the diocese.

White, a Franciscan priest, worked at St. Bonaventure for nearly 50 years before his death in 2002. He served several roles at the university, according to Olean Times Herald archives, including vice president of student affairs, chair of the theology department, dean of men, director of the Third Order of St. Francis and and guardian of the on-campus friary.

St. Bonaventure officials released a statement late Wednesday that, according to their records, no instances of abuse had ever been reported against White during his 47 years at the university. However, they said Franciscans Friars of Holy Name Province, White’s sponsoring province, has informed them an allegation against White is being investigated.

“Until we know with certainty if this allegation is credible, we believe it’s not appropriate to comment further on the case at this time,” said St. Bonaventure President Dr. Dennis DePerro in the statement. “That said, St. Bonaventure University remains steadfastly committed to zero tolerance for any form of sexual abuse or harassment — from students, faculty, staff or friars — and we will provide any support service necessary to those who have been victimized.”

The statement did not mention Haggerty, a Franciscan priest who served as a campus minister at St. Bonaventure for two years in the 1980s prior to his death in 1991.

A native of Jessup, Pa., and a World War II veteran, White entered the Franciscan Order at Callicoon in 1948, earned his bachelor’s degree in theology from St. Bonaventure in 1951 and was ordained in 1954.

White is still prominent at the university, as his name is attached to multiple honors bestowed by the institution and often recalled by older alumni in positive testimonials.

The Fr. Gervase F. White, O.F.M. Endowed Scholarship is listed on St. Bonaventure’s website. Additionally, the Fr. Gervase White, O.F.M., Staff Person of the Year award is presented to a St. Bonaventure employee who have “gone out of his or her way, especially in aiding students and enhancing student life on campus,” according to a 2015 St. Bonaventure awards program.

White’s name was also included on the Reilly Center’s video board, installed in the fall of 2016. The display was funded by donations from board of trustee member Albert C. Horton, Class of 1966, who has multiple times credited White as one of three university employees to whom Horton owes his success in life.

Haggerty, who was born in Lee, Mass., served in the U.S. Army, graduated from Holy Cross College and was received into the Franciscans in 1950, according to Times Herald archives.

He served as principal of what is now called Archbishop Walsh Academy from 1964 to 1969. He also served as a teacher, guidance counselor, assistant principal and guardian of the community for the Olean Catholic high school.

He left Walsh in 1969 and served in number of positions in New Jersey and Washington, D.C., before returning to the Olean area to join St. Bonaventure in 1983. He left the university in 1985 to take an assignment at a friary in Massachusetts, telling the Times Herald it would allow him to be closer to his relatives.

The diocese has not included White or Haggerty on its list of priests credibly accused of child sex abuse, which now totals over 80 names. Priests who had a single allegation made against them that was made after their death are not included on that list, the diocese has said.

There is already one deceased St. Bonaventure friar on that list, the Rev. Maurice Scheier, who was named by the diocese last November.

A 2004 claim accused Scheier, who died in 1991, of abusing a female minor in 1948 in California, according to Holy Name Province. The claim was eventually part of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ $660 million settlement to more than 500 alleged abuse victims in 2007.

St. Bonaventure has challenged Scheier’s inclusion on the list of credibly accused priests given he appears to have faced a single allegation and that allegation was made after his death.

Another former St. Bonaventure friar, the Rev. Gary Ketcham, was named in last year’s Pennsylvania grand jury report about clergy sex abuse. Ketcham, who was part of the university's faculty until 1984, was convicted in 1990 of molesting two boys while visiting friends in Alabama.

The diocese’s abuse scandal began in February 2018 after a former Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels priest and Walsh teacher, the Rev. Norbert Orsolits, told The Buffalo News he sexually abused “probably dozens” of teenage boys during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

His admission came just hours after Michael Whalen held a press conference outside the diocese’s headquarters in downtown Buffalo and accused Orsolits of abusing him as a teenager.

There have been widespread calls for Buffalo Bishop Richard J. Malone to resign amid criticism of his handling of clergy allegations, which was the subject of an October episode of CBS’ “60 Minutes.” Malone has refused to step down.

News of the allegations against White and Haggerty comes just two days after St. Bonaventure announced it had cancelled an academic conference on the Catholic Church sexual abuse crisis that was set for this weekend.

The Franciscan Institute at St. Bonaventure decided to cancel the event after local victims voiced concerns that no victims would be allowed to speak at it, according to a statement from the university Monday.

(Contact reporter Tom Dinki at Follow him on Twitter, @tomdinki)








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