Cardinal O’Malley calls for investigation; asks Boston seminary rector to take leave

Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley speaks at a conference, "Erroneous Autonomy: The Dignity of Work," Jan. 10 at The Catholic University of America in Washington. (CNS photo/Dana Rene Bowler, The Catholic University of America) Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley speaks at a conference, "Erroneous Autonomy: The Dignity of Work," Jan. 10 at The Catholic University of America in Washington. (CNS photo/Dana Rene Bowler, The Catholic University of America) 

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Archbishop of Boston said in an Aug. 10 statement that he has asked the rector of its main archdiocesan St. John Seminary to go on sabbatical leave immediately and is asking for an investigation of allegations made on social media about activities there "directly contrary to the moral standards and requirements of formation for the Catholic priesthood."

"At this time, I am not able to verify or disprove these allegations," said Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley in a statement sent to media via email. He does not say in the statement what the allegations are about.

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However, a post on the community section of a Facebook page for the Archdiocese of Boston has a comment by someone named Andrew Solkshinitz‎ with a link to a blog post that describes seminarians at "conservative seminary" drinking heavily, "cuddling" after a drunken party, and being involved in sexual behaviors and acts. Solkshinitz says on Facebook that the seminary not identified in the blog post is St. John.

"At this time, I am not able to verify or disprove these allegations," said Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley in a statement sent to media via email.

"As a former Boston seminarian for 3 years I am calling upon the church to seriously examine the seminary located on Lake street," Solkshinitz writes in the post he made on the page. "The church has not learned her lesson and maybe if the stories are once again made public then things will finally change."

In a statement released by the archdiocese, Cardinal O'Malley said that Father Stephen E. Salocks, professor of sacred Scripture, will serve as interim rector at St. John Seminary as Msgr. James P. Moroney, its rector, goes on sabbatical leave for the fall semester, "in order that there can be a fully independent inquiry regarding these matters," he wrote.

Cardinal O'Malley said he also has appointed a group "to oversee an inquiry into 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."

"As a former Boston seminarian for 3 years I am calling upon the church to seriously examine the seminary located on Lake street," Solkshinitz writes in the post he made on the page. "The church has not learned her lesson and maybe if the stories are once again made public then things will finally change."

He said he has asked the group to submit its findings as soon as possible.

"The allegations made this week are a source of serious concern to me as archbishop of Boston," he wrote. "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. "

Cardinal O'Malley is one of Pope Francis' chief advisers on clerical sexual abuse and heads the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Boston was the epicenter of the abuse scandal that erupted in the church in 2002. The Boston Archdiocese was then headed by Cardinal Bernard F. Law.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
A Fielder
2 months 1 week ago

Circa 2006, the Vatican authorized visitators to interview all of the Jesuits preparing for the priesthood (and perhaps the faculty too) at the seminary I was also enrolled. The President of the School briefed us all and encouraged the men to be “forthright but not forthcoming.” I always thought that was weird. Was there something to hide? The individual interviews, and the final report to Rome were confidential, I think. I believe that all American seminaries went through these visitations. Depending on what was gathered during the process, has Rome known about these patterns of behavior for a decade and done nothing about it?

Stephen de Weger
2 months 1 week ago

Has Rome known? Oh yes, and there's the rub. Now that so much cannot remain hidden forever (the internet), it is little wonder that Rome keeps everything under lock and key and canon law (see Potifer's Wife: Tapsell 2014). All this started with the advent of mass media (early 1900s). An for decades in the USA at least, every one was kept in the dark about clergy misconduct because Catholics controlled the media and threatened boycotts of news sources should they hint at including negative stories of the church (see "Creating a Culture of Clergy Deviance" by Philip Jenkins). But, yes, the Church/Rome knew, and knows. Of this Doyle, Sipe and Wall are sure (see "Sex, Priests and Secret Codes").

Stephen de Weger
2 months 1 week ago

If people think this is only a problem in the Boston Seminary, then any inquiry is defeated even before it begins. On one hand you might find out about the particular issues within Bos Sem but what of the other possible hundreds of seminaries which have a similar culture. Doing something for Boston Seminary looks like the church is acting, but again, it's been forced to by exposure. Now, all other seminaries around the world, not to mention the formation houses of religious orders and congregations, need to honesty put their hands up & say WE TOO have this problem. Come on boys (and a few women), now's the time to come clean. You do not deserve to be paid or looked after if you are living a lie and I'm sure you know that. By the way, it’s been going on for decades and decades. Not good enough. If the seminary is the preparation ground for the Churches religious professionals / priests, well, I think we know the rest…..

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