Investigation launched into sexual harassment claims at Philadelphia seminary

By Ed Condon

St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa. Credit: CatholicPhilly.com

.- Bishop Timothy Senior, auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia, has announced that the archdiocese is investigating a claim of sexual harassment made by a former student at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

In a letter sent this week to the priests and deacons of the archdiocese, the bishop said that the allegations concerned actions by a former student against another during the 2010-11 academic year.
 
The investigation was confirmed in a statement made by the archdiocese Aug. 16.

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John Monaco, a former student at St. Charles Borromeo, made the allegations public in an online account posted Aug. 9.
 
Monaco enrolled in St. John’s Seminary in Boston several years after leaving Philadelphia's seminary, and has also detailed alleged “abuse and misconduct” there. His account of Boston's seminary included an allegation of excessive drinking by priests who, he said, would invite a “clique” of seminarians to their rooms for private parties.

Last week, Cardinal Séan O’Malley announced a “full independent inquiry” into allegations of misconduct in St. John’s.
 
The investigation at St. Charles Borromeo comes in the wake of the ongoing scandal surrounding Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, who is accused of sexually abusing minors and of sexually harassing seminarians during his time in ministry. On Aug. 17, new allegations emerged concerning a “homosexual subculture” among seminarians in his former archdiocese of Newark.
 
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s announcement also follows the release of a grand jury report into six other Pennsylvania dioceses. That report followed an 18 month investigation and contained the names of 300 priests accused of sexual abuse. Writing in response to that report’s release, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said that anger by the faithful was understandable and for Church leaders “the only acceptable responses are grief and support for the victims, and comprehensive efforts to ensure that such things never recur.”
 
Speaking to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Monaco said that “it was painful to go back and re-experience the memories, but I am glad that I came forward …. A seminary should never be a place where a man does not feel that he can be protected and grow in holiness.”
 
Monaco's allegations about the seminary in Philadelphia concern the behavior of seminarians, one of whom was expelled, Monaco said, after complaints about him were lodged with a seminary administrator. He alleged in one online posting that a report of being groped by a fellow seminarian was not met sufficient attention when brought to a different seminary administrator.

In a statement made Aug. 16, Ken Gavin, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, said that the archdiocese had “recently became aware of allegations of sexual harassment by one seminarian of another.”
 
“In keeping with the long-term policy of the seminary and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, this allegation was turned over the Archdiocesan Office of Investigations for appropriate handling in light of policy and applicable law. As it is an active investigation, we are not able to comment upon it further.”

Ed. note: This story was edited Aug. 20 for clarity regarding Monaco's accounts.

Tags: Archdiocese of Philadelphia, sex abuse, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary

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