Cardinal O’Malley expands sex abuse investigation to include all Boston seminaries

Cardinal Sean O'Malley speaks with CNA in Rome on Feb. 4, 2013. Credit: Stephen Driscoll/CNA.
Cardinal Sean O'Malley speaks with CNA in Rome on Feb. 4, 2013. Credit: Stephen Driscoll/CNA.

.- The Archdiocese of Boston announced Thursday that it is expanding its sex abuse investigation to include all three of its seminaries.

The investigation will now include Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary and Redemptoris Mater Seminary, along with St. John’s Seminary, which has been under investigation since August after two of its seminarians filed abuse claims.

In his announcement of the expansion, Cardinal Sean O’Malley said that the decision to include the other two seminaries came about in consultations about the investigation into St. John’s.

“While the initial review was specific to St. John's, I have concluded that to meet the generally expected levels of transparency and accountability, it is best to expand the review to include all three seminaries,” O’Malley said.

“I want to reassure the seminary communities and the wider public that these are institutions committed to the highest standards of integrity, respect and safety for our seminarians, faculty and staff,” he added.

It is not known if there were additional accusations brought forward involving the additional seminaries. CNA asked the Archdiocese of Boston whether additional allegations have been made; the archdiocese referred CNA back to its statement issued Oct. 10.

An updated version of the statement includes a Frequently Asked Questions section, which poses the question: “Why include all three seminaries if the initial issue involved only Saint John’s Seminary?”

The answer to that question provided by the Archdiocese states: “While the issues pertained to St. John’s Seminary, the Cardinal wants to reassure the Catholic community and wider public that we owe it to future generations of seminarians that all three of our seminaries meet the highest level of exceptionalism and holiness for priestly formation.”

On August 10 of this year, O’Malley announced a major investigation into St. John’s Seminary in the Archdiocese of Boston, following allegations made by two former seminarians on social media. 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.”

At that time, O’Malley said the two men who had brought the accusations forward had “witnessed and experienced activities which are directly contrary to the moral standards and requirements of formation for the Catholic priesthood” and that they would be taken seriously.

O’Malley, who also serves as the President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, also announced in his Oct. 11 statement a change in the committee that will be conducting the investigation.

He said that the scope of the new investigation would be too broad for the original committee, and added the members of the original committee all had ties to St. John’s which might have compromised their objectivity.

“For these several reasons I have decided to engage (the lawfirm of) Yurko, Salvesen and Remz to conduct the review of the Archdiocesan seminaries,” O’Malley said.

“The review will be led by former U.S. Attorney Donald K. Stern, with the assistance of Doug Salvesen and others at the firm. Yurko, Salvesen and 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.”

O'Malley encouraged anyone with relevant information to contact the investigating firm directly.

An independent report highlighting concerns, and steps to address them, will be issued once the investigation has been completed, O’Malley noted.

He added that the investigation will be done in such a way as to allow for “as little disruption as possible to the academic year now underway at the seminaries.”

He said that the Archdiocese is “blessed” to have its three seminaries, and that he looked forward to ordaining the largest number of new priests in more than two decades for the Archdiocese in the upcoming ordinations for the class of 2019.

He also noted that while he encourages everyone to pray for religious vocations, the role of the laity is also vital in the Church.

“In times such as we are experiencing it is of ever greater importance that we embrace the dedication, commitment and experience of the laity if we are to provide the path for our future priests to serve as witnesses of the love and mercy of Jesus.”

Tags: Catholic News, Cardinal O'Malley, Archdiocese of Boston, Seminarians, St. John's Seminary, Abuse investigation