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.
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.
“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.”
The complete statement by Cardinal O’Malley:
“Earlier this week I was informed that two former seminarians of St. John’s Seminary in the Archdiocese of Boston had posted allegations on social media sites including the Archdiocese’s Facebook page 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.
At this time I am not able to verify or disprove these allegations. As Archbishop of Boston, with responsibility for the integrity of the seminary and its compliance with the Church’s Program for Priestly Formation, I am committed to immediate action to address these serious matters and have made the following decisions regarding St. John’s Seminary.
First, I have asked Msgr. James P. Moroney, Rector of St. John’s, to go on sabbatical leave for the Fall Semester, beginning immediately, in order that there can be a fully independent inquiry regarding these matters.
Second, I have appointed Rev. Stephen E. Salocks, Professor of Sacred Scripture, to serve as Interim Rector at St. John’s.
Third, I have appointed the Most Rev. Mark O’Connell, Auxiliary Bishop of Boston, Dr. Francisco Cesareo, President of Assumption College and President of the USCCB National Review Board, which advises the USCCB on matters of child and youth protection policies and practices, and Ms. Kimberly Jones, CEO of Athena Legal Strategies 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. The inquiry will be staffed by Mark Dunderdale, Esq., Director of the Archdiocesan Office of Professional Standards and Oversight.
I have directed this group to proceed with due seriousness of their assignment and as soon as possible to submit to me the findings of the inquiry and a set of recommendations to assure appropriate standards of professional behavior in compliance with Church teaching at all levels of seminary life. The faculty, staff and students at the seminary will be advised of my expectation that they will fully cooperate with the inquiry.
The allegations made this week are a source of serious concern to me as Archbishop of Boston. 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. “
Pray for Boston. Pray for our Church.