Editor’s Note: This article contains mentions of sexual abuse.
By Erica Scalise, Eliot Schiaparelli and Aislinn Keely
Fordham named several Jesuit priests affiliated with the university who have been credibly accused of clerical abuse in an email to the Fordham community this Tuesday. While none of the priests listed are currently affiliated with the university or reside in Murray-Weigel Hall, the Jesuit New York Province’s infirmary and retirement home on campus, some of the abuse allegedly happened while the priests were employed by Fordham University and Fordham Prep.
Following a detailed report earlier this year of widespread abuses in Pennsylvania, Jesuit provinces have detailed alleged stories and composed lists of priests who have been credibly accused of clerical abuse.
Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of the university, and Robert Daleo, chairman of the board of trustees, outlined the situation and Fordham’s involvement in a university-wide email Tuesday. The email listed a total of nine priests, five of whom were placed at Fordham by the Jesuit USA Northeast Province and four from other American provinces.
The Northeast Province has not responded to multiple requests for comment.
Bob Howe, Fordham’s senior director of communications, said the university has no tolerance for sexual misconduct in any form.
“While none of the accused priests are involved in Fordham University’s student life or operations today, we are horrified that some of these alleged crimes were committed when the perpetrators were associated with the University or Fordham Prep, or were otherwise in close proximity to our students,” said Howe.
The Ram investigated claims of abuse using bishopaccounability.org, a website that tracks and records credible incidents of clergy abuse.
These priests included Peter Conroy, S.J., who worked at the university from 1972 to 1979 when he allegedly groped two female relatives, according to WKBW.
The email’s list also included Rev. Roy Drake, S.J., a former science teacher at Fordham Prep in the late 1960s who lived in Murray-Weigel Hall for a number of years.
Drake was accused of molesting the friend of a Fordham Prep student, while on a ski trip in 1968. The Ram previously reported that Drake lived in Murray-Weigel Hall until 2006, when he was transferred to a treatment center for troubled priests.
The Fordham Ram also previously reported that another one of the priests listed, the Rev. Eugene O’Brien, was principal and president of Fordham Prep in the early 1970s when he allegedly molested a student. The accuser filed a lawsuit that was settled in 1997 for $25,000 by Fordham.
According to McShane’s email, O’Brien was at Fordham Prep from 1950 to 1953 and 1960 to 1980 and at the university from 1986 to 1991, years following the initial accusations brought against him.
John McCarthy, S.J., who worked at Fordham from 1956 to 1992, was accused of abuse of minors in the ‘70s as well as William Scanlon, S.J., was also listed and accused of abuse of minors.
Four priests not from the Northeast Province were also listed in the email. These include John Bellwoar, S.J., who taught at Fordham in the 1930s; Maurice Meyers, S.J., who was affiliated with Fordham in both the 1950s and ‘70s; and Francis X. Nawn, S.J., who was at Fordham from 1980 to 1981.
The list also includes Philip Sunseri, one of two priests still alive. Sunseri lived in university residence halls from 1983 until 1986 and currently resides in San Jose, according to bishop accountability.
In acknowledging the abuse in the university-wide email, McShane and Daleo encouraged survivor support.
“As the sexual abuse scandal that has engulfed the Catholic Church unfolds, it is incumbent on all of us who are leaders at affected institutions to support the survivors and to acknowledge the inalterable harm that was inflicted on these brave survivors and their families,” said the email. “They are and will remain the University’s first and central concern.”
The email also said the university must ensure that policies and procedures are in place to prevent this from happening again.
According to the university statement, the school will create an independent Advisory Committee to review allegations of sexual misconduct.
“The Advisory Committee has been tasked with reviewing and analyzing allegations of abuse by Jesuits who were employed by or otherwise associated with the University at the time the alleged misconduct was committed, overseeing the management of claims concerning such abuse, and examining any appropriate preventative and remedial measures to address allegations of such abuse,” said the email.
The university email also stated that the Northeast Province has recently removed all men with known credible accusations against them from Murray-Weigel Hall.
The email’s list did not include Rev. Cornelius Carr, S.J., who The Ram recently reported has a number of credible sexual misconduct allegations against him. Carr did not teach at the university, but lived at Murray-Weigel Hall in his final years until his death in 2013.
The university made the request to the Northeast Province that alleged abusers be removed from Murray-Weigel soon after The Ram began its investigation into Carr.
Directors at Murray-Weigel said the hall could not provide a list of priests in residence and that the Northeast Province should provide that information. The Northeast Province has not responded to requests for this information.