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Cardinal O’Malley orders inquiry into Boston seminary, places rector on ‘sabbatical’

The head of the Archdiocese of Boston has announced a major investigation into St. John’s Seminary following allegations made by two former seminarians.

Pope Francis talks with Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston before a meeting of cardinals and the pope at the Vatican in this Feb. 13, 2015, file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Boston, Mass., Aug 10, 2018 / 01:57 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Séan O’Malley has announced a major investigation into St. John’s Seminary in the Archdiocese of Boston, following allegations made by two former seminarians. The cardinal also announced that the rector of the seminary, Monsignor James Moroney, had been placed on immediate leave to allow for a “fully independent inquiry.”

The announcement was made by Cardinal O’Malley on Friday afternoon, August 10.

In a prepared statement, the cardinal said that he had learned of the allegations earlier that week, after posts by the former seminarians appeared on social media. The Archdiocese has not confirmed the exact nature of the allegations.

“Earlier this week I was informed that two former seminarians of St. John’s Seminary in the Archdiocese of Boston had posted allegations on social media sites including the Archdiocese’s Facebook page that during their time at the seminary they witnessed and experienced activities which are directly contrary to the moral standards and requirements of formation for the Catholic priesthood,” O’Malley said.

The cardinal, who also serves as the President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, stressed that he has not yet been able to either prove or disprove the allegations, but that the matter was being treated with the utmost seriousness.

“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.”

In addition to announcing Msgr. Moroney’s “sabbatical,” Cardinal O’Malley said that he has appointed Rev. Stephen E. Salocks to serve as Interim Rector of St. John’s. Father Salocks currently serves as a professor at the seminary.

The investigation into the allegations is being led by Bishop Mark O’Connell, Auxiliary Bishop of Boston, Dr. Francisco Cesareo, President of Assumption College and President of the USCCB National Review Board, which advises the USCCB on matters of child and youth protection policies and practices, and Ms. Kimberly Jones, CEO of Athena Legal Strategies Group.

Laying out the remit of the inquiry, O’Malley said he had directed them to examine “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.”

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

The cardinal said he had instructed the inquiry team to report back to him “as soon as possible” with their findings and a set of recommendations ensuring proper standards of behavior in accord 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.”

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  1. The independent commission needs to be both lay and above reproach. They should pay no attention to what the official standards of conduct are but what the true standard, as enforced, is. Lastly, if the rector is found guilty, Cardinal O’Malley needs to step down for either neglect of the seminary or collusion. (Such a penalty is the only way to ensure that a bishop will take care of his seminary.)

    Lastly, every seminary in the United States also needs to be investigated by a similar panel.

  2. Huge breaking story on Bishops:

    Rod Dreher at American Conservative reporting the death of Richard Sipe, at 85.

    Sipe, reknowned expert on sex abuse investigations in the Church for 30-40 years, sent letter to Bishop McElroy in 2016, asking for an audience to discuss the abuse and coverups recounted in the letter, describing among other things possible criminal neglect and perjury by Cardinal Mahony. The letter itself is damning and horrible. McElroy refused to meet Sipe.

    The catch: the letter to McElroy had a confidential list of Bishops compromised and/or complicit in sex abuse. Dreher is hoping that Sipe may have a will directing that the list be published after his death.

    Huge event…

  3. Also, watch out for this investigation run by Boston Archdiocese…no credibility after the disclosure that Cardinal O’Malley and his staff buried The McCarrick allegations.

  4. I am a faithful Catholic Bostonian with 5 children and a husband. We have three young sons and pray for their life vocations which may include the priesthood. This is a cause for righteous anger towards the nauseating incompetency and hardness of heart by the Archbishop of Boston and his staff. Negligence in God’s house comes at a high price. May God Have mercy on the Archdiocese of Boston and the seminarians who have been victims of homosexual predators in the church.

  5. A candidate for the priesthood needs to get an endorsement or recommendation from a pastor as a part of the application process, does he not? How many pastors know their flock well enough that he can confidently say that someone does not have same-sex attraction or has not engaged in a homosexual relationship? And should the families of potential candidates also be interviewed as a part of the process? Those seeking security clearance have to go through such a process — why shouldn’t candidates for the priesthood be subject to something that strict and thorough?

    Again, the Roman Catholic Church needs to deal with the problem of scale.

    • SOL,
      It’s my understanding that a candidate for the seminary receives a psychological evaluation that includes an estimate of the candidate’s sexual orientation.

  6. This panel seem to be all close friends and associates that work with O Malley and stand to lose significant business if the Cardinal goes down the tubes, etc etc. Cover up is in place. The panel’s remit is vague and could mean anything, and makes no mention of rooting out homosexuality in the seminaries.

    You know, so many of the bishops that you thought you could trust are very recently attempting to circle the wagons, and in fact Bishop Barron seems to me to have told us laity to shut up already and stop talking about this homosexuality stuff. Wuerl made his laughable statement, Di Nardo hemmed and hawed on EWTN nightly news, saying that he could not say much at this point in time. Now O Malley sets up this fake investigation into things he surely must have known about. Boston has long been the home base for homosexuality in the church. Forgive me if they strike me as a bunch of liars all scurrying for cover

  7. Note when Boston “acted.” Only when former seminarians had to post publicly on “Facebook.”

    And the Cardinal and “his staff” who buried the McCarrick story are now declaring their sincerity?

    I guess they think we are all just cattle.

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