Fordham Rescinds Professor’s Honors Following Clerical Abuse Allegations

By Erica Scalise
Fordham Ram
February 06, 2020

Murray Weigel Hall

Rev. Nicholas J. Langenfeld, former social welfare professor in the Graduate School of Social Services, prior recipient of the President’s Medal and the eponymous figure of the Rev. Dr. Nicholas J. Langenfeld Chair in Social Research at the university’s Graduate School of Social Sciences, has a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against him listed by the Diocese of Green Bay.

The university revoked Langenfeld’s honors in 2019, posthumously, following its knowledge of the allegation. The Langenfeld Chair was renamed the Sister Thea Bowman Chair according to Bob Howe, director of communications for the university. The Fordham community was not notified of these changes. 

According to Howe, there is no central list of revoked honors.

The university publicly rescinded Bill Cosby’s honorary degree in 2015 in light of sexual misconduct allegations against him and Charlie Rose’s honorary degree in 2017 following sexual assault allegations brought against him. In the case of Langenfeld, Howe said the university did not make a formal statement because he was long deceased when the university revoked the honors. 

Langenfeld is not on Fordham News’ list of priests connected to the university with credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor. Howe said the lack of update was an oversight. 

According to Howe, Fordham’s list comprises the names of priests from all of the Jesuit provinces. Priests from several orders have circulated through the university over the years. 

Since the list’s release, The Fordham Ram has tracked priests with credible allegations connected to the university, Fordham Preparatory School and Murray-Weigel Hall, the Jesuit infirmary and retirement home on the university’s campus. The university has not added those names to its list and has not publically updated the list since it was first published on Jan. 15, 2019. 

According to Howe, the university received notice of the Langenfeld allegation after the list was posted. 

He referred to the online list as the university’s reporting mechanism. 

“We will be updating the list on the website when we learn of new cases, including Father Langenfeld’s,” he said. 

While at Fordham, Langenfeld taught research methodology and was the school’s research director from 1934 to 1967; a $1 million gift from the Langenfeld family established the professorship in his name, according to The New York Times

According to the Diocese of Green Bay, the approximate dates of abuse occurred in the 1940s. Justine Lodl, communications director for the Diocese of Green Bay, said though the allegation dates back this far, it was made many decades later. 

Langenfeld died at Murray-Weigel on Aug. 28, 1994, according to his obituary in The New York Times

He is not the only priest connected to the university with credible allegation(s) of sexual abuse against him who returned to Fordham to live at Murray-Weigel. The Ram previously reported on Rev. Edward Zogby, S.J., the associate vice president for Lincoln Center during the 1980s who was accused of sexual misconduct in an article from The New Yorker. Zogby was a resident at Murray-Weigel and died there in 2011. Zogby is not included on Fordham News’ list of priests with credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.

The Ram also reported on Rev. Roy Drake, S.J., a science teacher at Fordham Prep until 1968,  two years before the university and Fordham Prep became independent of one another in 1970. Drake was accused of sexual abuse and then went on to live at Murray-Weigel from 1994 to 2006. 

Most recently, Rev. William J. O’Malley, former adjunct professor in the School of Professional and Continuing Studies and theology professor at Fordham Prep, was removed from Murray-Weigel per a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor. O’Malley is also absent from Fordham’s list of priests. 

The university’s message has remained consistent regarding Murray-Weigel — it does not have control over the infirmary and does not have a regular flow of information concerning its tenants. The Northeast Province and the university have an agreement that sees to the immediate removal of residents against whom credible allegations are made, according to Howe and Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of the university. 

The process of placement into Murray-Weigel is unclear. According to Lodl, it was Langenfeld who chose to live out his life there on Fordham’s campus when he retired to Murray-Weigel. 

According to Michael Gabriele, communications director for the Northeast Province, the Provincial makes the ultimate decision as to where a Jesuit resides based on the availability of space and the health of the Jesuit.

With the addition of Langenfeld, the Ram has tracked 12 priests who have lived at Murray-Weigel with credible accusations of sexual misconduct of a minor brought against them.

Langenfeld is the only priest whose residency dates back to the 1990s. According to Gabriele, Murray-Weigel, which once served as a home for Jesuit-scholastics in training, transitioned to the Jesuit health center in the early ’80s.

This reporting comes amid the release of Pro Publica’s interactive database of accused priests as well as an analysis by The Associated Press that found more than 900 clergy members accused of child sexual abuse were missing from lists released by the dioceses and religious orders where they served.

The university did not respond to questions regarding updates on its Independent Advisory Committee, a group comprised of lay trustees assigned to review allegations of sexual misconduct against Jesuits. 

According to Howe, the university condemns Langenfeld’s actions, regardless of where or how long ago they took place. 

“Fordham is committed to ensuring that the University offers no haven, nor honors, to perpetrators of sexual abuse, and is likewise committed to reporting any future cases of abuse to law enforcement and Church authorities,” Howe said. “As an institution and a community, we pray for the healing of all victims of sexual abuse.”


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