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Brighton rector in misconduct allegations at St. John’s Seminary to go to Worcester

St. John's Seminary in Brighton is seen in the top of this photo photo.
St. John's Seminary in Brighton is seen in the top of this photo photo.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/file

The rector of a Brighton seminary who has been on sabbatical during an investigation of alleged misconduct there will be returned to his home diocese in Worcester, according to an announcement Friday by church officials.

Monsignor James P. Moroney, who was placed on sabbatical in August by Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, will become interim rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul and the Worcester Diocese Office for Divine Worship, the announcement said.

Moroney had been rector at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton for the past six years.

The announcement did not say whether the investigation has been completed or what, if anything, has been concluded.

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In August, O’Malley said he launched the investigation after learning that two former St. John’s seminarians posted allegations on social media 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.”

Former seminarians alleged a panoply of unpriestly behavior at the 134-year-old institution including heavy drinking, sexual harassment, bullying, and intimidation.

In October, O’Malley broadened the inquiry to include the two other seminaries in the Boston Archdiocese, Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston and Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Brookline.

O’Malley said he included the other seminaries to meet “the generally expected levels of transparency and accountability.” He also announced he hired former US attorney Donald K. Stern to lead the review after criticism that the investigators he tapped in August to review the issues at St. John’s all had direct ties to that seminary.

Terry McKiernan, founder and co-director of BishopAccountability.org, a watchdog group, said the lack of details in Friday’s announcement about Moroney’s reassignment is troubling but not surprising.

“It’s not unusual for opaque transparency to happen in these situations,” McKiernan said. “Clearly he is not being invited back [to St. John’s] and that’s significant. But the way this reassignment is being reported conceals from us basic information that we really do need to have.”

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McKiernan said the issue also raises concerns about accountability that extend far beyond St. John’s, given O’Malley’s high-profile role as head of the Vatican commission on clergy abuse, and a wave of allegations about abuse of children by hundreds of priests in Pennsylvania and the by the former archbishop of Washington.

“O’Malley is a member of the Pope’s kitchen cabinet,” McKiernan said. “So when allegations of sexual misconduct at his own seminary come up, its not just a Boston issue.”

In Friday’s statement, the Rev. Robert J. McManus, bishop of Worcester, praised Moroney and his accomplishments while at St. John’s.

“During Monsignor’s tenure the Seminary facilities were expanded, new faculty members were added and the Archdiocese established an affiliation between the Seminary and the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas,” McManus said. “I am now grateful that his pastoral leadership skills will once again be placed at the service of his home Diocese.”

The announcement from McManus also included a statement from Moroney.

“Over the nearly 40 years since my ordination,” Moroney said, “my single goal has been to be of whatever service to the Church I can. I am deeply grateful for my time at Saint John’s Seminary and look forward to serving the people of Worcester in the years to come.”


Kay Lazar can be reached at kay.lazar@globe.com Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKayLazar.

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