McQuaid Suspends Faculty Member Accused of Sexual Misconduct

By Matthew Daneman
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
November 16, 2003

Brighton - A longtime faculty member at McQuaid Jesuit High School has been suspended following allegations of sexual misconduct 24 years ago involving a student at a New York City school.

Father John Costello, chairman of the religion department, taught nearly nine years off and on at McQuaid over the past 18 years. He was suspended from teaching and performing priestly duties on Thursday by the New York Province of the Society of Jesus, commonly known as the Jesuits. McQuaid announced the suspension Saturday.

There have been no complaints of sexual contact with McQuaid students during his time there, said James E. Whelehan, president of the private school.

Whelehan said that the school mailed out letters on Friday to parents of all students, informing them of the suspension. On Monday, the school will post a letter to its 7,500 alumni on its Web site, he said.

Faculty were told of the suspension at the end of the day Friday, said Father Philip Judge, McQuaid's principal.

"The meeting was full of tears more than anything else. Father Costello is very, very well-respected and well-liked," Judge said.

The sexual abuse allegedly happened while Costello was teaching at Regis High School, a Catholic boys' school in Manhattan.

McQuaid first learned of the allegations on Monday from Jesuit officials. Whelehan said he did not know the circumstances of how the allegation came to light, but that it involved sexual contact Costello allegedly had with a then-15-year-old student at Regis.

"The allegation is just that. It's unproven," Whelehan said. He added that Costello "emphatically denies" the charge.

The Jesuits are conducting an investigation into the allegation. They also filed a report with the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, Whelehan said. That office could not be reached for information or comment Saturday.

If the allegations are proven false, Whelehan said, Costello would "certainly be welcomed back."

Costello was one of 12 Jesuits living at McQuaid. He left Rochester after his suspension, Whelehan said. He could not be reached Saturday.

Penfield resident Steve Braunschweiger, the father of a McQuaid senior and football player, said his son, Bob, had Costello for a couple of classes. Costello "always behaved properly," Braunschweiger said.

Considering the sexual abuse controversy that has plagued the Catholic Church in recent years, he said, this new allegation "is not something to take lightly. The priests and pastors and teachers have a serious obligation and it shouldn't be taken lightly."

Since April 2002, seven priests in the Rochester Roman Catholic Diocese have been suspended or removed from active ministry because of complaints of child sexual abuse. Those incidents were from years earlier, according to diocese officials.


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