Prep Reaches out to Parents

By Ed Palattella
Erie Times-News (PA)
November 13, 2003

The letter from Cathedral Preparatory School sends a clear message:

The school grieves for victims of past sexual abuse and is committed to protecting today's students.

In a two-page letter mailed Wednesday to parents of Prep's nearly 600 students, the headmaster, the Rev. Scott Jabo, detailed a proactive approach to preventing sexual abuse and asked for prayers "for all victims of abuse and their family and friends who suffer with them."

The letter was crafted in response to accusations by three Prep alumni who claim a former teacher molested them nearly 25 years ago.

"Parents have entrusted their children to Cathedral Prep with the clear understanding that the school will look out for their children's welfare and provide a safe environment at all times," Jabo wrote. "I believe our strong stance, proactive approach and implemented policies and practices send a clear message to everyone that our students' safety and welfare is paramount to all we do. Child sexual abuse will not be tolerated in any form."

Jabo's letter came after he was informed by the Erie Times-News late last week that three men were negotiating with Erie Catholic Bishop Donald W. Trautman in regard to payment for counseling. The three Prep alumni all professionals in their late 30s or early 40s claim the Rev. Michael Barletta molested them in the late 1970s or early 1980s.

"News of these allegations raises deep concerns among many people, including me," Jabo wrote. "Such events should never occur at Prep!"

Barletta, by many accounts, was a popular teacher who in 1975 launched the Teenage Action Club, a student organization geared toward community service. Barletta left Prep sometime before the start of the 1994-95 school year the same year one of the men complained to Trautman about past abuse.

Barletta, now 63, is no longer listed as a priest in the 2002-03 diocesan directory. Trautman declined comment on Barletta's status. Several attempts by the Erie Times-News to contact Barletta were unsuccessful.

When initially contacted by the Erie Times-News, Jabo said he was unaware of the allegations and had not been informed of talks between Trautman and the three men and their lawyer.

Jabo became headmaster at Prep in 2000 six years after Barletta stopped teaching there.

"I honestly don't know anything about it," Jabo said. "I have not been contacted."

After learning some details about the story being published today by the Times-News, Jabo wrote the letter to parents that acknowledges the clergy abuse scandal has sparked "outrage, betrayal, sadness and fear" and a range of other emotions.

"More importantly," Jabo wrote, "the innocent victims have suffered physical, emotional and spiritual pain. Likewise, their family and friends and many others have suffered along with them."

Jabo's letter aims to reassure parents that Prep has in place a variety of measures to protect students. He highlights the zero-tolerance policy the school and diocese have adopted.

Among the provisions:

* All Prep faculty, staff, administrators and coaches, along with others who have regular contact with students, are required to have Act 34 and 151 clearances, which consist of state police background checks that identify any felonies or charges of child abuse.

* Prep employees and volunteers also must adhere to the 11-page Diocese of Erie Policy for the Protection of Children, which includes such provisions as prohibiting a child from being alone in a car with an adult employee or volunteer.

Jabo's letter to parents also emphasizes that the three men do not blame Prep for what they claim Barletta did to them.

"They have not accused the school of negligence or complacency in what happened," Jabo wrote. "Their issue is with the accused individual. You should know that the accused person in question is no longer employed or associated with Cathedral Prep in any way."

Barletta served under three headmasters at Prep: Monsignor John M. Dollinger, who was headmaster from 1972 to 1984; Monsignor John B. Hagerty, who served from 1984 to 1989; and Arthur Bergamasco, who served from 1989 to 1994.

When asked if he had any concerns or complaints about Barletta during his tenure, Dollinger replied, "I don't want to comment."

Hagerty said he never received any complaints about Barletta. Bergamasco died in October 2002.

The Teenage Action Club, or TAC, disbanded the year after Barletta left Prep. It is no longer an active club at the school, Jabo said.

"Please pray for all victims of abuse and their families and friends who suffer with them," Jabo wrote in the concluding paragraph of his letter. "Pray for all those guilty of such tragic acts. Lastly, I ask that you pray for the safety and security of all our students at Prep and that of the entire Prep family that they may be kept safe from all harm and evil.

"Mary, Queen of Prep, pray for us!"


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