Cardinal Bernard Law in 2002. His legacy lingers at the archdiocesan seminary (Phil Saviano Channel/Youtube)

Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley has booted the rector of St. John’s, the archdiocesan seminary:

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.

This piece from One Peter Five is what this is about. The author is John Monaco, who talks about the homosexuality he saw in both St. Charles Borromeo seminary in Philadelphia, and in the passage below, what he saw in St. John’s Boston:

I spent two years in yet another “conservative” major seminary before leaving. During my time in this seminary, I saw more misconduct and abuse. Some priests on the faculty would get drunk with a select group of seminarians and invite them into their rooms late at night. One night, a priest on the formation faculty got so drunk during a seminary party that he fell out of his chair. While during the day, this particular priest was a hardliner regarding the Church’s teachings, his nighttime behavior revealed that such “orthodoxy” was a mask hiding his perversions. When I brought this up to other seminarians, I was criticized for being “uncharitable” and “gossiping.”

Though the seminary was no longer a purple palace where homosexual activity was front and center, sexual deviancy and improper conduct remained – only this time, it was behind the scenes. One of the seminarians ahead of me laughed and told me that the year before I entered, my room belonged to a guy who was kicked out for committing sodomy with a member of a religious order who took classes at the seminary. They were discovered after their moaning was heard by a seminarian across the hall, who notified a faculty member. Both seminarians were promptly expelled. Sometimes, I would come downstairs to the common room late at night and find seminarians cuddling with each other – drunk, of course. Alcohol abuse was prevalent, and no one took action against it.

I kept to myself during those two years, but rumors of seminarians hooking up with each other and faculty members grooming homosexual seminarians with lavish gifts abounded. I became more and more isolated. I stopped attending daily Mass and the recitation of the Divine Office, preferring to stay in my room and try to sleep my way through the day. Thankfully, the rector of the seminary took note of my depressed state, met with me, and arranged for me to see a therapist – which he kindly paid for. After speaking with the therapist, as well as my spiritual director, I knew what I had to do. In spring of 2016, I left.

A Catholic priest has privately vouched to me for the character of John Monaco, saying he’s solid.

According to the Boston Pilot, the Boston archdiocese’s newspaper, Monaco’s story brought another accusation:

Another allegation came in an Aug. 7 comment by a person named Andrew Solkshinitz on the archdiocese’s Facebook page, which was linked to Monaco’s article.

“I can confirm that this is true and in fact there are so many similar stories about this place. As a former Boston seminarian for 3 years I am calling upon the church to seriously examine the seminary located on Lake street. The church has not learned her lesson and maybe if the stories are once again made public then things will finally change,” Solkshinitz wrote.

On his personal Facebook page, Solkshinitz wrote that he was propositioned by a fellow student during his time at St. John’s. He said when he brought the matter to the attention of the archdiocese’s vocation’s director and vice rector and his concerns were dismissed.

Monaco also told his story to the activist website Church Militant. Today, he told Church Militant that he came forward with his stories in the wake of the Cardinal McCarrick scandal:

“When I wrote my testimony on One Peter Five (and later on Church Militant),” Monaco told Church Militant Friday, “I did so not out of vengeance or bitterness, but as an antidote to the poison of clergy abuse and misconduct, most infamously seen by the perversions of ‘Uncle Ted’ McCarrick.”

“Since then, my testimony has allowed others to come out and share their stories,” he added.

This brought back a memory. In the late winter of 2002, a month or so after the scandal broke big out of Boston, I met a rather conservative faculty member of St. John’s Seminary at a social gathering in New York. I asked him if it was true that St. John’s was a hotbed of gay sex. Oh yes, he said, it’s absolutely true.

“I found out that my best student had a reputation as the blow job queen of the seminary,” he said, ruefully.

My God, I said, did Cardinal Law know?

“Yes, he knew,” said the man. “I told him myself.”

And he did nothing? I asked.

I’ll never forget the look that man gave me. He was a man who loved the Catholic Church, and adored Cardinal Law. He was struggling to reconcile this with the fact that Cardinal Law had permitted this evil to persist in the archdiocesan seminary.

A lot of lay Catholics live and move and have their being within that sort of cognitive dissonance.

I am told by someone familiar with the situation at St. John’s today that a lot of the open homosexuality has been cleaned up since then, but that there’s still some of it. The culture of drinking is a big problem there, my contact said, and is a source of other problems.

The late Richard Sipe, who died last night, once told me that a culture of clerical sexual corruption is passed down within Catholic seminaries. In 2011, he wrote this about seminary life for Bishop Accountability. Excerpt:

Despite warnings and condemnations of homosexuality the Roman Catholic Church remains a homosocial  [emphasis in the original — RD] organization (it reserves all power to men and excludes women). This structure naturally facilitates and encourages homosexual activity within its clergy from the top down mostly among the immature and developing candidates. As one psychiatrist put it in a folksy phrase: Men are loving animals and they are going to love whoever’s near.” In the judgment of some the priesthood in the United States is becoming a “gay profession” (meaning more than 50%).

This is not merely a result of the structural predisposition, but due to the predominance of gay oriented bishops, religious superiors, and rectors of seminaries—those in charge of church power.

In 2002 the Vatican instituted an Apostolic Visitation of 200 U.S. seminaries and houses of formation; the investigations were conducted in 2005 and 2006 and the report was published in English on January 12, 2009. The Catholic News Service reported that the 2002 series of revelations of priest sexual abuse in the Boston Globe sparked the church visitation.  Those stories served as the flash point of the sexual abuse crisis that hit the United States.

One conclusion of the Vatican’s report was, “seminaries appeared to have made improvements in the area of seminarian morality, most notably with regard to homosexual behavior.” The examiners attributed this in part to the more judicious selection of seminary rectors. Later the report admitted, “Of course, here and there some case or other of immorality –again, usually homosexual behavior -continues to show up. However, in the main, the superiors now deal with these issues promptly and appropriately.”

Some who had intimate knowledge about the Vatican investigation said that it was “corrupt.” That sordid story will be told at a future date.

Archbishop (now Cardinal) Edwin O’Brien was in charge of that visitation. There is indeed a story to be told there.

In related news, I want to bring to your attention this powerful column written by an anonymous priest, talking about how exhausted he is by the never-ending scandals, and the belief that bishops will not support priests like him. He entered seminary in 2002, amid the last round of scandals. He knew what he was getting into, he said. What he didn’t realize is how bishops would not support faithful orthodox priests like him. Excerpts:

In my years of priesthood I have learned what the greatest good is for a bishop: to address as few complaints as possible. So, if a priest is having a gay affair, if he has a serious drinking problem, if he is sleeping around with women, if it is clear that he has mental disorders that inhibit him from overseeing a parish, if he is wicked and cruel, if he regularly abuses the liturgy, if he preaches heresy, if he contradicts the bishop, or if he teaches counter to the moral teaching of the Church, as long as there is no traceable record of complaint, or continual outcry from the people, then all remains the same, as long as the sins remain mostly occult. If a bishop can legally turn a blind eye, he will. Because otherwise, he may have to do something unpleasant.

More:

If I may, I now speak for myself and my peers directly to the American prelates: Bishops, we can appreciate how you feel when attacked for doing what is right. We can appreciate the hurt, the desolation, and the immense loneliness. We can appreciate it, because we live it as well. We live it when we preach a homily defending the Church’s teaching on marriage, and are chastised by you for “upsetting the people.” We live it when we express how difficult it is to live with someone who drinks himself into a rage every night, and we are told by you that we need to “get along with our pastor.” We live it when you let our brothers mock us behind our backs over cocktails with benefactors. We live it when we are chastised for legitimate liturgical expressions and our brothers who preach counter to the faith are given plush parishes and diocesan offices. We live it when our peers call us names, and paste misplaced quotes of Pope Francis on our doors. We live it when we see seminarians leave because a priest made an advance on them and you do nothing about it after we report it. We live it when our family and friends part ways with us because of Church abuse scandals. We live it when we are insulted in public. We know that it is difficult to do what is right in the current climate.

We often look to you, our spiritual fathers, for solidarity and support. We need someone to stand with us to be “shining lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.” But we remain alone. At best, you ignore us, and, at worst, you punish or reprimand us. We don’t always get it right, especially when we are newly ordained, but think of this: Is it fair to berate a young priest for overzealous imposition of Latin, when you know his pastor is cruising gay bars and do nothing? Is it prudent to rebuke a son for preaching on an unpopular topic, while his colleague regularly openly endorses contraception? Is it fair to continue to punish us for honest mistakes while our colleagues live an open life of dissipation, which you ignore?

Read the whole thing. 

UPDATE: Father Peter Funk comments:

As a member of a contemplative monastery, I was able to do most of my seminary coursework over the internet when distance learning of this kind was in its infancy. I did spend three brief summer sessions at the seminary. My prior and junior master, for a variety of reasons, didn’t want me spending more time there. I didn’t experience anything that suggested widespread corruption, though there was one seminarian whose identity was openly homosexual and had frequent parties at his dorm room. I stayed in the monastery cloister and didn’t attend much of even the officially sanctioned get-togethers. Two women made advances toward me _in class_ (footsy, e.g.), which was enough to convince me that my chastity required separation from any unnecessary social interactions.

I’m now the superior of my community. When we became an autonomous house six years ago, I obtained the authority to found within our monastery our own studium (house of studies). We did this in part because we didn’t feel that the integration of the moral and intellectual life in the seminaries we knew of was rigorous enough for men who are aiming to live the discipline of monastic life. We have our own tradition of psychological and moral discipline, rooted in Evagrius, St. Cassian, and St. Gregory the Great. Diocesan seminaries have a reputation for discriminating against monks who want to wear their habit and return regularly to the monastery of their stability.

Needless to say, I’m more convinced now than I was six years ago of the correctness of our judgment.

It is no secret that young men today face many challenges in maturing, taking responsibility, and acting manly. Since we have a very small pool of men in formation, we can deal directly with these challenges. It also means, frankly, that my own behavior is scrutinized up close, which is a great incentive to work every day at uprooting vice and planting virtue.

I wouldn’t say that these new revelations are a great surprise to me (and again, I’m really grateful for the work you’re doing, especially contacting Keating and your fine obit on Sipe), but it is also the case that I didn’t know the extent of the problem. In my opinion, we would be best served by the Chilean Option, mass resignations followed by an open investigation by the laity.