Ex-Teacher Accuses Principal of Misconduct
School Official Denies 1995 Conversation
By Noaki Schwartz
Sun-Sentinel [Fort Lauderdale FL]
July 13, 2002
A former Cardinal Gibbons High School teacher has accused the school's principal of misconduct, an allegation apparently similar to the one that resulted in the Rev. Joseph J. Kershner's suspension in June.
Vince Golia of Lake Worth, who taught theology at Cardinal Gibbons from 1992 to 1995, said Kershner groped him on two occasions while he worked at the school. One of the incidents allegedly happened in a teachers' lounge.
"I thought, 'What the hell just happened?' This was not a pat on the back," Golia said.
Golia said he called the Archdiocese of Miami on Wednesday to report the incident after learning of Kershner's suspension. Details of the incident that led to Kershner's suspension had not been made public at the time.
Golia said he first reported the incident to Assistant Vice Principal Paul D. Ott in 1995, after his teaching contract was not renewed. Ott said this week he did not recall the conversation.
"There is no credence to the story whatsoever," Ott said.
While the archdiocese would not confirm it had received Golia's complaint, Kershner's attorney, David Bogenschutz, said he spoke to Monsignor William Hennessey, archdiocese vicar general, who took Golia's call. Bogenschutz called the new claims "bizarre" and said he hopes to resolve them when he meets with archdiocese officials.
Kershner, 75, is a member of the Piarist Fathers, an order devoted to educating youth. He was suspended in June after the archdiocese received a complaint from a man who attended the school from 1972 to 1976. The former student has not been publicly identified.
While the archdiocese has refused to make public the details of the alleged incident, Bogenschutz said it involved "minor touching of an alleged former student's buttocks."
He added there is "a little more" to the complaint, but said "it is not for print."
Still, the claim was enough for the archdiocese to invoke its policy of suspending any priest accused of misconduct while an investigation is conducted. The complaint also was referred to the Broward County State Attorney's Office, where Dennis Siegel, head of the sex crimes and child abuse unit, said he expects his investigation to be completed within two weeks.
Cardinal Gibbons officials, alumni and students have voiced their support for Kershner, who began working at the school in 1966.
"If I listened to half the rumors I hear ...," said theology teacher Marianne Jackson, who said she recalls Golia working in her department but never heard about any groping. "The only thing I can say is [Kershner's] always been very good to me. I'm just very saddened by the whole thing."
Kershner has been described as strict and detached from school activities, but students say he still took time to greet them on campus.
This week school officials released a one-page statement expressing their support for Kershner "during this difficult time in his life."
"When accusations of impropriety are lodged against an individual, one is put in the very difficult position of trying to prove one's innocence," wrote Ott. "This is something akin to trying to prove you are a good person. We know that Father Kershner is a good person and are disheartened by the damage done to his reputation based on allegations that have not been specific or substantiated."
Noaki Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 305-810-5004.
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