NEWSFLASH: Cardinal O’Malley Expands Seminary Review, Brings in Outside Firm

October 11, 2018

This afternoon, the Boston Pilot is reporting that Cardinal Sean O’Malley will be expanding the seminary review begun in the wake of reports of homosexual activity and sexual harassment at St. Johns Seminary. We heartily commend Cardinal O’Malley for this move.

BCI readers will recall that a month ago, on Sept 3, BCI characterized the initial investigation panel and approach as lacking appropriate independence in our post, “Is Cardinal O’Malley Whitewashing the Gay Scandal Investigation of St. John’s Seminary?  Our explanation was simple–everyone on the investigation panel had ties to St. Johns Seminary or the Archdiocese of Boston.  About a week later on Sept 10, coincidentally, the Boston Globe came out and said the same thing in an editorial, which, just so happens to have used the exact same arguments as the BCI post.  And now today, Cardinal O’Malley has apparently come to the same conclusion.  He said:

I recognize that each member of the original committee has connections or ties to St. John’s Seminary and that given the current challenges of confidence in Church leadership and institutions, the people of the Church and our civic community there may have been concerns regarding the objectivity and completeness of the committee’s findings. For these several reasons I have decided to engage Yurko, Salvesen and Remz to conduct the review of the Archdiocesan seminaries.

We regard this as very good news!  The investigation has also been expanded to cover Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston and Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Chestnut Hill.”

The engagement of the outside firm is in part because the scope has broadened (thus requiring more resources), and in part because of the need to ensure independence.  The Cardinal also said that the review will be led by former U.S. Attorney Donald K. Stern, with the assistance of Doug Salvesen and others at the firm.  He said, “Yurko, Salvesen & Remz has significant experience with the process of review that we seek and does not have an existing relationship with any of the seminaries or the Archdiocese of Boston.”

They are asking for anyone who has information relevant to the review to contact the firm directly, either by email to dsalvesen@bizlit.com or by calling (617) 723-6900.  Relevant information provided by people to the prior investigation panel will be passed along to to Yurko, Salvesen and Remz.

Cardinal O’Malley is to be commended for listening to feedback and adjusting the approach based on the concerns raised. As we wrote previously, the investigation was shaping up to be something of a nothing-burger, so we hope this team goes about it more effectively without the obvious conflicts of interest.  We’re also hoping someone will be willing to use the words “homosexuality” and “homosexual harassment” in describing what happened. We’ll see…


Boston Globe Calls for Independent Investigation of St. Johns Seminary Sex Scandal

September 10, 2018

It’s rare that BCI finds ourselves in agreement with the Boston Globe, but here’s once where we do mostly agree: their editorial in today paper, Probe of St. Johns Seminary needs independence.

The editorial is excellent–it says the the allegations of “immoral unprofessional misconduct by faculty and students” and a “toxic culture” of bullying and threats need to be properly examined, but the group brought together by Cardinal O’Malley has conflicts of interest: it’s stacked with St. Johns Seminary board members, including Sr. Janet Eisner and Assumption College president Francesco Cesareo, and the other members of the group also have conflicts of interest.  Have you heard this same 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 more.  Alert readers who compare the two will notice some striking similarities. What a coincidence!

What the Globe carefully avoided saying was the word “homosexual,” and they also avoided mentioning the conflicts Sr. Eisner and Francesco Cesareo have over their colleges sponsoring groups that affirm homosexual activity is just fine and dandy.

Sr. Eisner’s quote in the article is lame. she said rather than there being a potential conflict in her board affiliation, it provides “insight into the seminary.”  Well, if she had insight into the seminary, then why did she miss knowing about a gay sex scandal there under her watchful eyes?  With Cardinal O’Malley’s blessing, she insists she’s fully committed to uncovering the truth in a timely manner, and if anything criminal in nature is found, they stop the investigation and give it to “the authorities.”

But what if you find out a bunch of seminarians have been admitted who have deeply rooted homosexual tendencies and they’re engaging in homosexual activity with each other or hitting on straight seminarians who want nothing to do with their immoral, unhealthy and gross behavior? And what if that behavior is the same behavior you’re sponsoring clubs on your campus to promote and encourage? Then what happens?

Attorney General Maura Healey, weighed in saying there needs to be a thorough investigation without conflicts of interest.  And Jack Connors, never one to miss a chance to get his name in print, said he’s “all in favor of opening windows, doors, and records. Investigate away.”

Here’s the spin the archdiocese put out internally over the weekend to let priests and staff know their take on the pending editorial.

BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL, EXPECTED MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2018 (or sooner)
The Boston Globe is preparing an editorial opposing the appointments of the panel that is conducting an inquiry into St. John’s Seminary. Cardinal Seán took the proactive step of announcing the inquiry when he learned of the social media posts by the two former seminarians. The Cardinal has appointed Sr. Janet Eisner, President of Emmanuel College, to chair the panel inquiry, which she has agreed. He has also appointed the Most Rev. Mark O’Connell, Auxiliary Bishop of Boston, Dr. Francesco C. Cesareo, President of Assumption College and President of the USCCB National Review Board and Ms. Kimberly Jones, CEO of Athena Legal Strategies Group to conduct the inquiry.

These individuals, who have agreed to serve, are people with impeccable reputations and distinguished in their fields and expertise.

This past Friday, Sr. Janet spoke with the journalist writing the editorial for the Globe regarding the inquiry. You may recall Sr. Janet was co-chair of the Meade-Eisner Committee that reviewed several reconfiguration decisions by the Cardinal, with recommendations.

BCI thinks the spin is poppy-cock and it’s time for a re-do on the investigation team. What reputation and experience do either of the college presidents have upholding Catholic teachings about the sin of homosexuality that cries out to Heaven for Vengeance? All of the people either work for the Archdiocese or are on RCAB boards. How “independent” is that?

Besides, we hear the fix is already in.  The rector and vice-rector will be out (for obvious reasons), as could be a professor of systematic theology (for sacrificial lamb reasons).

And we heard the team wants to use politically correct wording and phrasing, just like the Cardinal’s commentary, and avoid calling it what it is–a problem of admitting seminarians with deeply rooted homosexual tendencies and knowingly allowing them to engage in homosexual activity, and allowing the kind of culture described in this post.

We hope and pray the archdiocese heeds the advice of the Boston Globe, gets rid of everyone with conflicts of interest (namely, everyone), and starts over with at least a few people who are on-the-record supporting the Catholic Church’s teachings about homosexuality.

 


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

September 3, 2018

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.


St. Johns Seminary Scandal

August 10, 2018

Today Cardinal O’Malley announced that the rector of St. John’s Seminary in Brighton has been placed on leave due to claims by two former seminarians of inappropriate conduct there.  An investigation is now underway.

In a statement reported in the Boston Globe, Cardinal Seán O’Malley said the two former seminarians of St. John’s Seminary recently posted allegations on social media sites including the Archdiocese’s Facebook page that “they witnessed and experienced activities which are directly contrary to the moral standards and requirements of formation for the Catholic priesthood.”

“At this time I am not able to verify or disprove these allegations,” O’Malley said. “As Archbishop of Boston, with responsibility for the integrity of the seminary and its compliance with the Church’s Program for Priestly Formation, I am committed to immediate action to address these serious matters.”

O’Malley said he asked Msgr. James P. Moroney, rector of St. John’s, to go on sabbatical leave for the fall semester, effective immediately so “that there can be a fully independent inquiry regarding these matters.”

O’Malley said he has appointed The Rev. Stephen Salocks, professor of sacred scripture, to serve as interim rector at St. John’s.

A group that includes religious clergy, a college president, and a Boston lawyer “will oversee an inquiry into the allegations made this week, the culture of the seminary regarding the personal standards expected and required of candidates for the priesthood, and any seminary issues of sexual harassment or other forms of intimidation or discrimination,” O’Malley said.

That group includes the Most Rev. Mark O’Connell, Auxiliary Bishop of Boston; Assumption College President Francisco Cesareo, who also serves as president of the USCCB National Review Board, which advises the USCCB on matters of child and youth protection policies and practices; and Boston attorney Kimberly Jones.

The inquiry will be staffed by Attorney Mark Dunderdale, director of the Archdiocesan Office of Professional Standards and Oversight.

O’Malley said he has directed the group, “with due seriousness of their assignment,” to submit their findings to him “as soon as possible,” along with “recommendations to assure appropriate standards of professional behavior in compliance with Church teaching at all levels of seminary life.”

“The allegations made this week are a source of serious concern to me as Archbishop of Boston,” O’Malley said. “The ministry of the Catholic priesthood requires a foundation of trust with the people of the Church and the wider community in which our priests serve. I am determined that all our seminaries meet that standard of trust and provide the formation necessary for priests to live a demanding vocation of service in our contemporary society.”

Specifics on the allegations have not been disclosed publicly by the archdiocese, however based on the tawdry details in the Globe article (see link above), it sounds like some form of sexual harrassment that was reported to a seminary official — the vocations director — and dismissed as insignificant. The official seemingly criticized the victim for over-reacting.

We looked at the Archdiocese of Boston Facebook page and found this:

RCAB facebook

And this post links to this lengthier post from OnePeterFive, “After McCarrick: An Ex-Seminarian Comes Forward”   It’s not for the faint at heart, and if the post on the archdiocesan Facebook page is correct, this post is about St. Johns Seminary.

Hold onto your seats, and stay tuned for more as we learn more.


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