THE Rev Daniel Lahart, above , a Jesuit priest appointed President of a top Catholic American boys’ school in 2016, has been sacked from Regis High for sexual misconduct involving several adults, including school employees.
His firing will be effective April 21, according to a statement issued by Anthony DiNovi, Chairman of the board of trustees, who said:
The investigation is now coming to a close, and the board of trustees has determined, based on the findings of the third party investigator, that Fr. Lahart engaged in inappropriate and unwelcome verbal communications and physical conduct, all of a sexual nature, with adult members of the Regis community, including subordinates.
This conduct was nonconsensual, and moreover, continued notwithstanding express requests from the affected parties for the conduct to cease.
The removal of Lahart comes at a delicate moment for the Roman Catholic Church. All its dioceses in New York State are under investigation by the New York State Attorney General, Letitia James, for handling of sexual misconduct.
Last year, James sued the Diocese of Buffalo and three bishops connected to it over what her office described as a years-long cover-up of clergy sexual abuse. Investigations into the other seven Catholic dioceses in the state are ongoing, and church officials say they have cooperated with investigators.
DiNovi said Lahart had declined to participate in the investigation of his behaviour, conducted by an outside firm, T&M USA. Citing privacy rules, he said the school would release no further information about the investigation or its findings.
Please know the board did not come to its decision lightly and took seriously its obligation to act with transparency, integrity and compassion in service of our community, both with respect to Fr. Lahart and to those members of our community who were harmed by his conduct. We are committed to ensuring a safe, respectful and caring workplace for all current and future Regis staff members.
Regis High School is the most prestigious Catholic school in New York, with a long list of notable alumni that includes Dr Anthony S Fauci and the actor Colin Jost. It does not charge tuition, and its graduates routinely go on to attend the top public and private universities in the country.
DiNovi said that Father Lahart would be replaced on an interim basis by Christian Talbot, a lay person with deep experience in the world of Catholic secondary education. Talbot previously spent 14 years on the Regis faculty.
In a statement posted on the school’s website, DiNovi revealed that Lahart had been put on administrative leave on February 28 this year.
After the last six weeks, I am convinced that we as a community have learned from this experience and will be better equipped than ever to fulfill our mission of transforming lives and forming Men for Others. Collectively, we have greeted a difficult moment with transparency, responsiveness, and compassion. The spirit with which we have faced these challenges is evidence of our bright future.