Is Cardinal O’Malley Whitewashing the Gay Scandal Investigation of St. John’s Seminary?

Several BCI readers have asked what we know about the latest on the investigation into homosexual activity and sexual harassment at St. Johns Seminary.  Based on internal and external indicators, we get the distinct impression the outcome could end up looking largely like a “nothing-burger” and it could be set-up as a whitewashing. A few heads may roll, but not much else will change.

When the scandal hit, Cardinal O’Malley responded with great fanfare about the major investigation into St. John’s Seminary. BCI is told that the high-paid folks on the 4th floor of the Pastoral Center said he needed to look tough on such issues right now. The rector was put on leave so there could be a “fully independent inquiry.”  We first thought that was odd phrasing, as the members of the inquiry panel include:

  • Aux. Bishop Mark O’Connell, who, coincidentally, was on the faculty of SJS during the time of the scandal
  • Attorney Kimberly Jones of Athena Legal Strategies, who, coincidentally, happens to also serve on the Archdiocesan Finance Council.
  • Dr. Francisco Cesareo, President of Assumption College and President of the USCCB National Review Board,  who, coincidentally, is also on the St. Johns Seminary Board of Trustees.  His college also sponsors AC Allies, a “gay/straight alliance…support group for LGBTQ students and their allies, and the college’s director of campus ministry, serves as the advisor to the group.
  • Mark Dunderdale, director of the Archdiocesan Office of Professional Standards and Oversight. who, coincidentally, has been paid more than $200K/year by the archdiocese since 2011 (see our post “Bloated payroll“)

Other than the above people investigating the problem, the group is “fully independent.”

John Monaco, one of those who reported the homosexual activity at OnePeterFive issued an open letter to Cardinal Sean and public complaint about a possible conflict of interest by Bishop O’Connell :

Admittedly, I am a bit perturbed that you appointed a former member of the seminary faculty (who was on the faculty during my time at SJS) to lead this investigation. The Catholic faithful have seen how bishops policing themselves and conducting internal investigations can jeopardize the objectivity so desperately needed for the pursuit of justice.

And now we learn in the Boston Pilot that Bishop O’Connell is sidelined , and Sr. Janet Eisner, head of Emmanuel College, is now leading the investigation.  Is this change because of the complaint from the former seminarian, or because Bishop O’Connell could be a candidate to take over as seminary rector after the investigation, or both?  We’re not sure.

Anyway, sources say the behind-the-scenes hand of Fr. Bryan Hehir is all over the investigation approach.  O’Connell said, “the scope of the inquiry will be the past five to six years, and its priority will be to ensure protocols are being properly implemented.”

This is screwy in so many ways it’s tough to describe them.  First, in his open letter, John asked that the investigation focus on three areas;

  1. Immoral and unprofessional misconduct by faculty and students alike, including, but not limited to:
  • “Private parties” where certain faculty members would invite an exclusive clique of seminarians into their room late at night
  • Widespread alcohol abuse, including a bachelor party hosted at the seminary in which a faculty member, drinking with seminarians until 2 a.m., fell out of his chair.
  • Allegations of grooming and its subsequent cover-up
  • A mismanagement of seminary finances

2. A toxic culture of fear, intimidation, and discrimination at Saint John’s Seminary

  • Bullying by certain faculty members
  • Threats of a lawsuit against those exposing the misconduct
  • Certain faculty members seen as “untouchable” and who survived over a decade of credible allegations
  • Fear from seminarians, priests, and laity of speaking out

3. Subsequent cover-up of such misconduct and unhealthy culture by leadership

  • that my complaints — and others’ — went ignored and mishandled
  • The insistent denial by leadership regarding the basis of these allegations

And Bishop O’Connell says the focus is on “protocols being properly implemented”?!?  Seriously?!  What “protocols”?  That seminarians shouldn’t be admitted if they have homosexual tendencies?  That if a homosexual is admitted, they shouldn’t be engaging in that activity publicly in the lounge of a seminary or hitting on other straight seminarians?  That if someone reports an instance of homosexual activity or being harassed to seminary leadership, the policy would be for the leader to take it seriously and the seminary to expel the homosexual, rather than blaming the victim? That there wouldn’t be bullying by faculty members?  That the culture wouldn’t be as described by the former seminarian?

Then there is the matter of Sr. Eisner now leading the “independent” investigation.  Coincidentally, she is also on the Board of Trustees of SJS.   Worse than that, Emmauel College is on a list of New Ways Ministry’s 130 known “gay-friendly” Catholic Colleges and Universities.

Emmanuel College has a club, OUTspoken, for LGBTQA students to create a better understanding of their self-identity.  Every year there is a student-led Reaching OUT Retreat for LGBTQA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Questioning, Ally) students on Cape Cod sponsored by OUTspoken and Campus Ministry which has as one core principle, “Accepting and being proud of your sexuality and who you are.” Then one sees that Sr. Eisner’s religious order, the Sisters of Notre Dame De Namur had a GLBT activist lead a retreat at the order’s high schools in California in 2014.

Wouldn’t this investigation into a homosexual scandal be a bit more “independent” and objective if the leader of it wasn’t so closely associated with promotion of the gay agenda herself?  Why not tap someone truly independent to lead it, who also believes and promotes what the Catholic Church teaches about homosexuality, such as the National Catholic Bioethics Center?

In his 2006 Letter on Homosexuality, Cardinal O’Malley said the following:

If we tell people that sex outside of marriage is not a sin, we are deceiving people. If they believe this untruth, a life of virtue becomes all but impossible. Jesus teaches that discipleship implies taking up the cross each day and following Him with love and courage.

It is never easy to deliver a message that calls people to make sacrifices or to do difficult things. Sometimes people want to punish the messenger. For this reason we priests at times find it difficult to articulate the Church’s teaching on sexual morality… It is important to express the moral teachings of the Church with clarity and fidelity. The Church must be Church. We must teach the truths of the Gospel in season and out of season. These recent times seem to us like it is out of season, but for that very reason it is even more urgent to teach the hard words of the Gospel today.

We know that friends and relatives of homosexual Catholics sometimes feel torn between their allegiance to Christ and their concern for their loved ones. I assure them that these goals are not incompatible. As Catholics we profess a firm belief in the dignity of each person and in the eternal destiny to which God calls us. Calling people to embrace the cross of discipleship, to live the commandments and at the same time assuring them that we love them as brothers and sisters can be difficult. Sometimes we are told: If you do not accept my behavior, you do not love me. In reality we must communicate the exact opposite: “Because we love you, we cannot accept your behavior.”‘

Does Sr. Eisner believe this and can she show evidence her administration has helped convey this perspective to Emmanuel College students? If not, then she should resign from the investigation committee and Cardinal O’Malley should appoint a leader who does believe this.

BCI understands some heads will likely roll after the investigation–maybe the rector, vice rector, and perhaps a faculty member disliked by some bishops, as a sign that changes are being made.  But that’s all that we expect at this point from this whitewashed investigation.  And then the questions emerge, who will replace those people?  There isn’t a lot of bench-strength depth, so BCI assumes some priests will end up doing three jobs instead of the two they are currently doing.

We hope and pray it turns out better than this, but we’re not hopeful.

12 Responses to Is Cardinal O’Malley Whitewashing the Gay Scandal Investigation of St. John’s Seminary?

  1. Rt Neary says:

    Why is it that there is never anyone active in the Right to Life movement on any of these panels?

  2. Assumption alum says:

    BCI, nicely done! One addition: you should perhaps add the GLBT group at Assumption, AC Allies: “a support group for LGBTQ students and their allies.”

  3. The Mighty Hercules says:

    Perhaps Father Robert Kickham will be named next rector.

  4. jbq2 says:

    It all depends on what the meaning of “is” is. As in the movie “Casablanca”, round up the usual suspects. The fix is in.

  5. […] Un blogger pregunta si “el cardenal” Sean O’Malley está “blanqueando la inv… […]

  6. ralph briggs says:

    I had a copy of the “Pilot” recently and read about this situation from The local Church’s point of view. I may have missed it but the work “homosexual” was not used once. THAT IS THE PROBLEM. Until these liberal priests, Bishops get that point nothing will change.In a local election here in Lynn a state rep candidate got the endorsement of a former pastor of a very large parish. This candidate supports abortion and assisted suicide. This same priest had an article about getting the bad priests and Bishops out of the priesthood. Father, heal thyself..

  7. MD Bombay says:

    Cardinal O’Malley shouldn’t be allowed to teach Sunday school in the archdiocese of Boston, nevermind run the whole corrupt show.


  9. […] Adorecast The Problem with Fr. Mike Schmitz: He Soft Pedals the Hard Teachings – Rod Dreher Is Card. O’Malley Whitewashing Gay Scandal Investigation of Seminary? – Bstn C. Insider The Time Has Come to Ban “Reconciliation Rooms” – Erik Bootsma, […]

  10. Why doesn’t *anyone* seem to understand: This is not about “liberals” running churches and seminaries. O’Malley is not a “liberal” by any stretch of the imagination and if you were to walk in to SJS or any such place, you’d find, for the most part, quite “conservative” or “orthodox” teaching, liturgy, and general outward behavior. This is about closeted gay men, most of whom present as “orthodox” hand picking their favorites and moving them up in the ranks. They also fling to the curb anyone that crosses them. They exist in the most liberal and the most traditional of circles. They pretend to be orthodox and want lay people to grovel at their feet and follow their teachings, but they live totally disparate lives behind the cloth and the incense and the holy hours. What we are talking about is a hierarchy that has no intention of believing in nor practicing the very rules they demand everyone else follow. So, what they all need to do is come out of the closet, a dark place from which they harm everyone, from the gay Catholic to the Latin Mass Catholic, and be honest and truthful. “I’m your priest. I love Jesus. I love the church. And I have sex with men.” If this happened in 50 percent or more of Catholic parishes, what would the reaction be? I ask not hypothetically, but truly curious since if clergy were honest, this is a question we’d have to answer.

    If you want to read my own account of what happened to me 15 years ago when I was a seminarian in Rhode Island, you can find it her. At the time, I was studying for Fall River and then bishop O’Malley decided that he was no longer sending anyone to SJS because of “issues there” and “not wanting to expose seminarians to what was going on.”…Which I assumed he meant was something in connection to the Globe unearthing Law’s major sex scandal coverup…

  11. […] concern voiced elsewhere recently?  Check out BCI’s post of last Monday, September 3, “Is Cardinal O’Malley Whitewashing the Gay Scandal Investigation of St. Johns Seminary?” We raised the same concerns a week before the Globe’s editorial came out, plus […]

  12. Nancy Dome says:

    Sent from my iPad


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