Deceased Bonaventure friars accused of abuse
The Bona Venture
April 11, 2019
Two more friars with ties to St. Bonaventure University have been accused of sexual abuse. Fr. Gervase White, O.F.M., and Fr. James (Cairnan) Haggerty, O.F.M., join 23 other clergy members on a list of priests accused of sexual abuse.
The names were acquired by WKBW’s I-Team in a long-term investigation into the Diocese of Buffalo and the allegations of sexual abuse. The list and its corresponding findings were published late Wednesday evening. Each of the 25 men is said to have at least one allegation against them. The I-Team sought clarification as to whether the cases were in fact substantiated. The diocese declined to comment.
St. Bonaventure University’s Office of Marketing and Communications released an initial statement in response to the I-Team’s findings less than one hour after WKBW-TV posted the story on its website.
The statement read, “According to [university] records, no instances of abuse had ever been reported against Fr. Gervase White, O.F.M., during his 47 years as an administrator and teacher at the university.”
According to the Friedsam Memorial Library Archives, White, a 1951 alumnus, was an instructor of theology from 1955 to 1961. The library archives also show record that White served as the assistant dean of discipline for the university, beginning in 1962. According to the Holy Name Province, White acted as a prefect for the residence halls of St. Bonaventure until 1965. He also acted as the dean of students for three years before becoming procurator of the friary at St. Bonaventure. Simultaneously, he spent time as a campus minister.
After 47 years of employment with St. Bonaventure, White retired from the university in 2001. He started an off-campus retreat for students with Fr. Dan Riley, O.F.M., which led to the founding of Mt. Irenaeus. White died in 2002, and the university has since honored his name. The video board at the Reilly Center, installed in 2016, prominently displays White’s name, and the university gives out an annual award in his name honoring the staff person of the year. He is buried in St. Bonaventure Cemetery.
Dr. Dennis DePerro, president of the university, said in both a preliminary release and a secondary release that he felt it would be inappropriate to comment on the accusations against White until formal investigations determine whether the allegations are credible.
While Haggerty also had connections to St. Bonaventure, the university’s preliminary release did not include any information about the allegations against him. According to the Holy Name Province, Haggerty served as a campus minister at the university from 1983 to 1985 after a long career in high school education. He died in 1991.
St. Bonaventure University sent out a second release with details on Haggerty. The release said, “University officials also have discovered no reports of abuse filed against Fr. Cairnan Haggerty, O.F.M.”
In an interview, DePerro said, “I think that this is really a moment of crisis for the Diocese of Buffalo. I think that the Diocese of Buffalo at this moment needs to be as transparent as possible related to this issue.”
DePerro said that Catholics inside the Diocese of Buffalo have given Bishop Richard Malone the chance to improve relations in this negative situation, but because Malone has not done that, the suffering of the victims and all Catholics has not been resolved.
“In any other entity, a leader that would see this, a strong leader, would have the courage to recognize that they are unable to solve the problem and they would step down,” DePerro said.
DePerro joins countless other Catholics in expressing his belief that Malone should step down because his leadership style no longer represents the Catholic Church positively.
The Franciscan Friars of the Holy Name Province released a response to the allegations against the 25 men, Haggerty and White included.
“The province cannot comment on the specifics of these claims since they are under active investigation… [W]ith these claims alleging abuse that took place in the past in some instances, upwards of 50 years ago, whereby accused and potential witnesses are deceased – HNP nevertheless is investigating these claims to the extent humanly possible, despite the difficulties and challenges they pose,” said the release.
White and Haggerty join Rev. Gary Ketcham and Fr. Maurice Scheier as members of the clergy who have been accused of abuse; all four men have ties to St. Bonaventure University. Ketcham and Scheier’s accusations surfaced in November of 2018.
The allegation against Scheier stemmed from a report by the Los Angeles Archdiocese. The report lists one allegation of abuse in 1948, which was reported by the archdiocese in 2004. It remains unclear what Scheier’s connection to Los Angeles is. When questioned in November 2018, the director of media relations for the Los Angeles Archdiocese said Scheier “has never had a an [sic] assignment in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.”
His ties to St. Bonaventure are clear, though. According to the Holy Name Province, Scheier “served as a professor of mathematics, head of the math department, dean of science and vicar and guardian of the friary.” Scheier died in 1991, and he is buried at St. Bonaventure Cemetery.
Ketcham became a friar at St. Bonaventure after being ordained in 1977 and continued his work at the university until 1984. He was charged with two counts of sexual abuse of minors in 1990. The sexual misconduct happened while Ketcham was working in Erie, Pennsylvania, but the abuse occurred in Alabama. Ketcham pled guilty to both counts. According to the Friedsam Memorial Library Archives, Ketcham was one of the original four friars to live in the Thomas More Friary on St. Bonaventure’s campus. Ketcham is still alive.
In the both of the university’s releases, DePerro 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.”
DePerro reaffirmed that the university has no reason to believe that any other names of clergy members affiliated with St. Bonaventure will appear on any lists that may surface in the future.
DePerro could not comment on the investigations of Haggerty and White, but said, “We expect that the Holy Name Province will respond to us and others. After their investigation is complete, we will share… probably.”
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