At least 13 monks and a retired lay teacher associated with an elite all-boys Catholic preparatory school in New Jersey have been accused of sexually abusing students over the past three decades.
The Delbarton School is reportedly managed by the Order of St. Benedict of the state and affiliated with St. Mary’s Abbey, which is a Benedictine community of 32 monks, brothers, and priests.
The institution said about 30 people had come forward with sexual assault allegations from 1968 to 1999.
In an attempt to make the matters of the school more transparent, abbot of St. Mary’s Abbey, Rev. Richard Cronin and Delbarton headmaster Michael Tidd posted a letter on the school’s website, which marked the first public acknowledgement of the broad scope of the problem at the Catholic prep institute.
The representatives also offered an apology “to anyone who has suffered sexual abuse or harassment because of the actions of a St. Mary's Abbey monk or Delbarton School employee," in the July 20 letter to the community.
According to the letter, the victims included the sons of a former Delbarton employee, former Delbarton students, a parishioner at St. James Church and former students of St. Elizabeth of Hungary School.
They were reportedly amongst the ones who “courageously” stepped forward to report the misconduct they suffered at the hands of 13 present or former monks, along with a retired lay faculty member.
The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office pressed charges in one of the cases against t Rev. Timothy Brennan, a former teacher who was convicted in 1987 of abusing a teenage student. According to The Associated Press, Brennan admitted to abusing 50 boys.
“Our hearts are full of compassion for the victims of sexual abuse, and we applaud the courage of those who have had the strength to step forward and speak about their experiences,” Cronin and Tidd wrote in the letter.
The allegations have prompted at least 15 lawsuits since 2012 ? eight of which have been settled while seven other are still pending.
The leaders assured the payments of the settlements came from the insurance funds and not from donations to the school or the abbey.
The letter went on to claim the accused monks were removed from their ministerial positions and were prohibited from unsupervised contacts with minors.
Moreover, the abbey officials also reportedly immediately notified the Morris County Prosecutor's Office “as each allegation emerged,” according to the letter. “The Abbey and school then undertook independent investigations of the allegations after the prosecutor’s office indicated whether it would prosecute the allegations as crimes. In all but one case, criminal charges were not filed.”
Amid such disturbing revelations, Cronin and Tidd assured the alumni, current students and their parents that new safety measures have been put in place in Delbarton to ensure the children’s well-being.
They also said the institute had collaborated with Praesidium, a company that helps institutions set up protocols to prevent child abuse, which gave annual abuse prevention training to monks.
“Above all, we want you to understand that protecting the well-being of the students of Delbarton and all those to whom we minister is our highest and most important priority,” Cronin and Tidd wrote.
They went on to claim “no restrictions have been placed on the victims’ ability to discuss their experiences.”
But, according to Bill Wolfe, whose accusations resulted in Brennan’s conviction, the school had silenced him through a non-disclosure agreement for years.
The fact it was not until Wolfe won the case in 2014 was he finally allowed to publicly discuss the ordeal made him skeptical about the school’s latest attempt at transparency.
“They fought me every step of the way. They attacked my family. They attacked my parents and they attacked me. They sued my attorney for representing me,” he said. “So the idea they’ve been open and honest and compassionate, that’s not been my experience. I’ve lived a lifetime of anxiety and far from being allowed to speak about it, I’m still not allowed to speak about some issues.”
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