Sem­i­nary cleared of mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY CHRISTO­PHER VONDRACEK

A re­port com­mis­sioned by the Arch­dio­cese of Bos­ton has cleared a sem­i­nary of al­le­ga­tions of ram­pant sex­ual mis­con­duct and ex­ces­sive drink­ing, but notes in­stances of frat­er­niza­tion and be­fore-meal drink­ing among sem­i­nar­i­ans and fac­ulty that could fuel fur­ther calls to over­haul Ro­man Catholic sem­i­nar­ies.

The re­port largely vin­di­cated St. John’s Sem­i­nary in Brighton, Mas­sachusetts, from the most pointed al­le­ga­tions posted by two for­mer sem­i­nar­i­ans in Catholic blogs a year ago. They posted sto­ries about sex­ual mis­con­duct and a bach­e­lor party more akin to a frat house than a sem­i­nary.

“Con­trary to some of the re­port­ing sur­round­ing the 2018 so­cial me­dia post­ings, the Sem­i­nary is not a den of sex­ual mis­con­duct fu­eled by ex­ces­sive drink­ing,” wrote for­mer U.S. At­tor­ney Don­ald K. Stern and the Bos­ton law firm Yurko, Salvesen & Remz, who com­piled the 90page re­port that was posted last month to the arch­dio­cese’s web­site.

In Au­gust 2018, for­mer sem­i­nar­ian John Monaco posted a blog en­try ex­plain­ing why he dropped out of the con­ser­va­tive sem­i­nary. He said he en­coun­tered a “toxic” en­vi­ron­ment rife with sex­ting be­tween stu­dents and fac­ulty dis­cussing mas­tur­ba­tion, as well as wit­ness­ing an as­sis­tant rec­tor drunk­enly fall­ing out of his chair.

The re­port, based on in­ter­views with more than 80 peo­ple, faulted the as­sis­tant rec­tor for hav­ing too many gin mar­ti­nis at a bach­e­lor party for a sem­i­nary staff mem­ber in the com­mons area in 2015.

The re­port also called for clearer rules about frat­er­niza­tion, not­ing an un­named pro­fes­sor who took ath­letic and pop­u­lar sem­i­nar­i­ans — dubbed the “pretty com­mit­tee” by oth­ers — on hik­ing and ski­ing trips to New Hamp­shire and Maine — and an out­ing to the cham­bers of the late Supreme Court Jus­tice An­tonin Scalia.

Over­all, the re­port found a lack of ev­i­dence of sex­ual con­duct be­tween fac­ulty and sem­i­nar­i­ans and found ad­min­is­tra­tive and dioce­san of­fi­cials un­re­spon­sive to al­le­ga­tions of mis­con­duct.

“There is a gen­eral con­sen­sus that while the 2015 ‘bach­e­lor party’ for one of the Sem­i­nary’s staff mem­bers was not the bac­cha­na­lian af­fair some­times as­so­ci­ated with such events, there was un­doubt­edly a bet­ter way for the sem­i­nar­i­ans to show their ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the staff mem­ber,” the re­port states.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors rec­om­mended that ad­min­is­tra­tors re­visit sem­i­nary’s sta­tus as a “wet” cam­pus and its hir­ing of an un­named moral phi­los­o­phy pro­fes­sor with a pen­chant for lewd, sex­ual al­lu­sions in and out of his class. An as­sis­tant to the rec­tor at St. John’s di­rected ques­tions about the re­port to the dio­cese.

“The sem­i­nary re­view has been a long and ar­du­ous process and has brought to light se­ri­ous de­fi­cien­cies that needed cor­rect­ing,” Car­di­nal Sean Pa­trick O’Mal­ley said Nov. 22 in a blog post. “In truth, I be­lieve we have a much stronger sem­i­nary as a re­sult of the re­view and the changes that have al­ready been made.”

A spokesman for the dio­cese noted that three of the re­port’s nine rec­om­men­da­tions al­ready are be­ing ad­dressed, in­clud­ing is­sues re­lated to al­co­hol use, frat­er­niza­tion and de­vel­op­ment of “hu­man for­ma­tion,” one of the pil­lars of sem­i­nar­ian de­vel­op­ment.

The rec­tor and as­sis­tant rec­tor at the time of the al­le­ga­tions were re­as­signed be­fore the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was com­pleted.

The re­port comes weeks af­ter a com­mit­tee of Catholic lead­ers con­vened by Ge­orge­town Uni­ver­sity called for end­ing the “elitism” at some sem­i­nar­ies, among other pro­pos­als to im­prove a church racked with a cler­i­cal abuse cri­sis.

“Sem­i­nar­i­ans are too of­ten formed in iso­la­tion and set apart,” the re­port states.

Last year, the Vatican pro­duced a doc­u­ment call­ing for re­form at Catholic sem­i­nar­ies.

“Con­trary to some of the re­port­ing sur­round­ing the 2018 so­cial me­dia post­ings, the Sem­i­nary is not a den of sex­ual mis­con­duct fu­eled by ex­ces­sive drink­ing.”

— Arch­dio­cese of Bos­ton’s com­mis­sioned re­port

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