October 11, 2018 - Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley Statement On Seminary Review
"This past August, I assembled a committee of men and women with the highest integrity and expertise to conduct a review at St. John’s Seminary in the Archdiocese of Boston. This review is in response to postings on the Archdiocesan Facebook page by two former seminarians stating that during their time at the seminary, they witnessed and experienced activities that are directly contrary to the moral standards and requirements of formation for the Catholic priesthood. Within days of these Facebook postings, the committee was appointed, announced publicly and preparations begun to review the culture of the St John Seminary regarding the personal standards expected and required of candidates for the priesthood, including any seminary issues of sexual harassment or other forms of intimidation or discrimination. I also committed to make available whatever resources the committee felt necessary to undertake this review.
In the weeks that have followed, I have consulted with many men and women who care deeply about the Church and our seminaries. The consultations have included recognition that the Archdiocese is the sponsor for three seminaries: St. John Seminary in Brighton, Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston and Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Chestnut Hill. While the initial review was specific to St John’s, I have concluded that to meet the generally expected levels of transparency and accountability, it is best to expand the review to include all three seminaries. I want to reassure the seminary communities and the wider public that these are institutions committed to the highest standards of integrity, respect and safety for our seminarians, faculty and staff.
I am confident that the committee that was appointed for the review of St. John’s Seminary was fully capable of conducting an objective and thorough study. These women and men are individuals with impeccable integrity and are distinguished in their fields. However, with the determination to expand the review to all Archdiocesan seminaries it would not be reasonable to ask them to take on a project of that scope. Also, I recognize that each member of the original committee has connections or ties to St. John’s Seminary and that given the current challenges of confidence in Church leadership and institutions, the people of the Church and our civic community there may have been concerns regarding the objectivity and completeness of the committee’s findings. For these several reasons I have decided to engage Yurko, Salvesen & Remz to conduct the review of the Archdiocesan seminaries. The review will be led by former U.S. Attorney Donald K. Stern, with the assistance of Doug Salvesen and others at the firm. Yurko, Salvesen & Remz has significant experience with the process of review that we seek and does not have an existing relationship with any of the seminaries or the Archdiocese of Boston. Individuals who have information relevant to the review are encouraged to contact the firm directly, either by email to [email protected] or by calling (617) 723-6900. Individuals who have already provided information relevant to the inquiry, please know that this will be directly transmitted to Yurko, Salvesen & Remz.
Once the review work is completed I am committed to releasing an independent report that addresses any issues arising from the review and identify steps that we will take to remediate any identified problems. Yurko, Salvesen & Remz will determine the timetable for completion of the review.
It is important to recognize that this review is being conducted in a manner that will be thorough and respectful of all participants but also with as little disruption as possible to the academic year now underway at the seminaries. I want to assure all participants of the integrity of this process and my confidence that truth and full disclosure will ultimately unify us all.
The Archdiocese of Boston is blessed to have three nationally recognized seminaries that are among the finest in the United States. This past May I ordained seven men to the priesthood at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Boston as the Cathedral of the Holy Cross is undergoing renovations. It was a beautiful and holy celebration, focused on the commitment of the new priests and the future of our Archdiocese. In my homily I shared that the Church exists to evangelize, and all our priests must be missionary disciples, constantly inviting others to be part of Jesus' family, to embrace his Gospel and his mission. I urged the newly ordained to embrace the principles of love, and mercy, which are vital elements of that mission, and that mercy must be a principal theme of their ministry. A seminarian begins the journey of discernment long before entering seminary, where they enter into a formal program of spiritual, academic and human formation. In May 2019 I look forward to ordaining the largest number of new priests in more than two decades in the Archdiocese of Boston.
I often share that Evangelization and the encouragement of vocations are the work of all people of the Church, our parishioners, our priests, deacons and the religious women and men whose presence is a great assistance for our ministry. In times such as we are experiencing it is of ever greater importance that we embrace the dedication, commitment and experience of the laity if we are to provide the path for our future priests to serve as witnesses of the love and mercy of Jesus.
Why is this review being conducted?
A: In August 2018 two former seminarians of St. John’s Seminary in the Archdiocese of Boston 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. One of the great failures of the Church has been the loss of trust and credibility both within the Church and in secular society. The issues under examination at the seminary demonstrate the need for accountability and transparency. Given how important vocations are for the future of the Church and the essential role our seminaries play in the formation of priests, the Cardinal wants to reassure seminarians, Catholics and the wider society that St. John’s Seminary, Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary and Redemptoris Mater Seminary are exceptional institutions of training, prominence and accomplishment.
Why include all three seminaries if the initial issue involved only Saint John’s Seminary?
A: While the issues pertained to St. John’s Seminary, the Cardinal wants to reassure the Catholic community and wider public that we owe it to future generations of seminarians that all three of our seminaries meet the highest level of exceptionalism and holiness for priestly formation.
How did you select the firm conducting the review?
A: After considering a number of firms, the Cardinal selected Yurko, Salvesen & Remz because it has the needed experience and does not have an existing relationship with the either the seminaries or the Archdiocese of Boston. The review will be led by former U.S. Attorney Donald K. Stern, with the assistance of Doug Salvesen and others at the firm. Individuals who have information relevant to the review are encouraged to contact the firm directly, either by email to [email protected] or by calling (617) 723-6900. Individuals who have already provided information relevant to the inquiry, please know that this will be directly transmitted to Yurko, Salvesen & Remz.
Who is paying for the review and how much will it cost?
A: The cost is unknown at the time as it is not possible to gauge how much time the firm will need to complete the full review. The cost will likely be shared by the Archdiocese and the three seminaries involved.
While there is no indication that any crimes have been committed, how will you reassure people of complete transparency once the work commences?
A: There have been no allegations of criminal behavior at any of the three seminaries. However, if potential criminal activity is discovered, you can be assured that it will be promptly referred to law enforcement, as has been the consistent policy of the Archdiocese of Boston with any allegations of criminal issues.
What will happen when the review is completed?
A: Once completed the Cardinal is committed to releasing an independent report that addresses any issues arising from the review and identify steps that the seminaries will take to remediate any problems that may arise. No timetable has been set to complete the review.
Will the information gathered by the initially-appointed committee be shared with the Yurko, Salvesen & Remz?
A: Any records or materials gathered by the initial committee will be shared with the newly appointed firm.
What do you hope is the outcome of the review?
A: To reassure our seminarians, faculty, lay staff and future generations of seminarians that St. John’s Seminary, Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary and Redemptoris Mater Seminary are exceptional institutions of training, prominence and accomplishment. We are committed to providing them a safe environment to prepare for the priesthood built on mutual respect, human dignity and a shared commitment to the people of God.