Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley is canceling a trip to Ireland during a papal visit so he can focus on an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, the Archdiocese of Boston said Wednesday.
The archdiocese said O’Malley had planned to travel to Dublin next week for the World Meeting of Families, where he would moderate a panel discussion. Pope Francis is scheduled to give the headline speech at the gathering’s final event, the Festival of Families, on Aug. 25.
However, the archdiocese said in a statement, “important matters pertaining to the pastoral care of St. John’s Seminary in the Archdiocese of Boston and the seminarians enrolled in the formation program there require the Cardinal’s personal attention and presence.”
Wednesday’s release came after O’Malley said on Friday that he had asked Monsignor James P. Moroney, rector of St. John’s, to go on sabbatical leave for the fall semester so “there can be a fully independent inquiry” into the allegations.
The cardinal hasn’t detailed the alleged wrongdoing, except to say that former seminarians had claimed on social media that “they witnessed and experienced activities which are directly contrary to the moral standards and requirements of formation for the Catholic priesthood” while enrolled at St. John’s.
A man who identified himself as a former seminarian recently posted that he “began to receive creepy texts from a strange number, looking to hookup with me. Found out it was a fellow seminarian. When I brought it forward this was the response: “Its not like he sent you pictures of his penis, don’t overexaggerate and act like a victim’ -vocations director. . . . I never trusted the church again and it put me in a 4 year long state of serious depression. One that I’m finally beginning to get over.”
Additional allegations of inappropriate behavior and alcohol abuse on the part of faculty also surfaced.
On Friday, O’Malley announced he had ordered a probe and identified the investigators who will lead it. They include the Most Rev. Mark O’Connell, an auxiliary bishop of Boston; Francesco Cesareo, president of Assumption College; and Kimberly Jones, chief executive of Athena Legal Strategies Group.
In Wednesday’s statement, the archdiocese said O’Malley has “great confidence in Baroness Sheila Hollins, Ms. Marie Collins, Ms. Barbara Thorp and Gabriel Dy-Liacco, Ph.D., going forward with the World Meeting panel [in Ireland dubbed] ‘Safeguarding Children and Vulnerable Adults.’ While the Cardinal will not be able to join them at that time he will closely follow the proceedings from the Archdiocese of Boston.”
The release described the meeting as “a significant event in the life of the Church in Ireland and the occasion of Pope Francis’ first pastoral visit to that country.”
O’Malley’s move comes at a time of heightened public attention to the church’s clergy sex abuse issues. A sweeping grand jury report released Tuesday in Pennsylvania said Roman Catholic Church leaders covered up sex abuse by more than 300 priests over three generations in that state. The investigation identified 1,000 children who were victims but said there were probably thousands more.
Separately Wednesday, Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston lawyer who has represented many victims of clergy sex abuse, said three Pennsylvania victims had contacted his office.
“PA clergy sexual abuse victims have contacted my office today wanting to file claims because their alleged sexual abusers were not named in the PA Grand Jury report,” Garabedian wrote in an e-mail. “More and more clergy sexual abuse victims will come forward in PA naming previously not listed pedophile priests. You can expect kind words from Rome as a public relations move but not any meaningful transparency or action which will either help clergy sexual victims try to heal or prevent the sexual abuse of children.”