CROMWELL, Conn. — Some of the seminarians and transitional deacons at the center of an investigation into homosexual behavior and activity at a small Catholic seminary in Connecticut apparently were ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Hartford and the Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey — despite the revelations outlined in a six-year-old report obtained by the Register.
According to the 2012 report’s disturbing conclusions, the homosexual activity at Holy Apostles took place in the context of a much wider homosexual network that spanned a number of U.S. dioceses as well as some foreign countries. The network reportedly involved homosexual activity between seminarians, transitional deacons and visiting priests serving elsewhere.
The rector of Holy Apostles College and Seminary and his chief investigator have come forward to publicly discuss the 2012 investigation that led to the swift removal of 13 seminarians.
Sources also told the Register that the Archdiocese of Hartford ordained a priest in 2010 who had allegedly previously been expelled from another seminary for sexual misconduct. This priest was figured in Holy Apostles’ investigation and was, according to the investigation’s final report, “directly involved in hosting parties and engaging in unacceptable behavior/homosexual activity with select seminarians from both the Diocese of Paterson and the Archdiocese of Hartford.”
The investigation’s final report was provided to the Register by Holy Apostles’ president and rector, Basilian Father Douglas Mosey. He said the investigation, conducted during the spring semester in 2012, was based on eyewitness testimony and other evidence of ongoing homosexual behavior among some seminarians.
Father Mosey said he had been told by two seminarians that they had witnessed inappropriate conversation and contact among a group of seminarians from Colombia.
And in mid-April 2012, according to Father Mosey, a seminarian approached him with an eyewitness account of sodomy between two of the seminarians, and he decided to take steps to deal with the burgeoning crisis. With the support of Bishop Michael Cote of Norwich, Connecticut, the seminary’s home diocese, Father Mosey and the vice rector, Father John Hillier, acted swiftly, Father Mosey said.
“In late April 2012, the administration of the seminary became aware of alleged homosexual practice by several students on the Cromwell campus,” Father Mosey, the president since 1996, told the Register. “With the full support of the board of directors, a thorough internal investigation was immediately launched.”
The investigation was led by transitional Deacon (now Father) John Lavers of the Archdiocese of St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada — a late vocation whose experience in law enforcement and national security work was brought to bear. Deacon Lavers, along with Fathers Mosey and Hillier, interviewed the seminarians in the presence of Auxiliary Bishop Christie Macaluso of Hartford.
Extensive Sexual Misconduct
Father Mosey said the investigation also uncovered incidents of plagiarism and alcohol violations, but that the expulsions were motivated primarily by indications of sexually inappropriate behavior and sexually charged conversation in common areas, eyewitness testimony of homosexual activity and forensic evidence of homosexual content on computers.
The investigation’s final report, written by then-Deacon Lavers and dated June 29, 2012, also revealed that seminarians would often make weekend trips to New York City and Hartford and New Haven, Connecticut, to visit bars well-known for catering to a homosexual clientele. Former seminarians confirmed the facts of those trips to the Register.
Other disturbing findings included evidence indicating that “select seminarians” from the Diocese of Paterson and the Archdiocese of Hartford had “engaged in various evening and late-night parties at a local church rectory in Connecticut where sexual encounters between seminarians and priests would occur”; that select seminarians were “meeting former seminarians for intimate encounters; these former seminarians were expelled from a U.S. seminary for unacceptable behavior/homosexual activity”; and that select seminarians “were discovered to be on a ‘blacklist’ of seminarians expelled from Colombian seminaries for engaging in unacceptable behavior/homosexual activity.”
The report also stated that the seminarians under investigation “had their diocesan personnel files altered or sanitized, resulting in the lack of full disclosure or transparency of a seminarian’s background, thus causing that seminarian to be misrepresented to other people,” and that “certain members of the clergy (i.e., vocation directors) coached or prompted select seminarians to give misleading responses to questions in advance of their interview with the Holy Apostles College & Seminary investigation team.”
And, according to the report, “select seminarians and certain priests have facilitated the recruitment and placement of other seminarians sharing in a similar alternative lifestyle within some U.S. dioceses.”
The redacted 2012 report did not name any of the individuals that it found had engaged in sexual misconduct and/or other wrongdoing.
“The evidence at Holy Apostles led us to a very systemic homosexual network of individuals, not only covering for each other, but actively sanitizing files, moving people around, engaging in all sorts of negative activity,” Father Lavers told the Register last month.
“That effort represented a large network involving several dioceses, including Paterson, Newark, Hartford and Buffalo — this last of which is coming out in the news now,” he added, referencing the recent allegations that the Diocese of Buffalo, New York, has sought to downplay the extent of clergy sexual abuse there.
Holy Apostles’ Response
The 2012 investigation led to the removal of 13 men from the seminary.
“As a result of the swift and thorough investigation, seven seminarians were immediately expelled from Holy Apostles. Six additional students were withdrawn from the program by their original sponsoring diocese,” Father Mosey told the Register.
“Holy Apostles acted immediately and decisively, in full compliance with its safe-environment protocol, to ensure the integrity of its seminary program,” he said. “We had not encountered such an incident previously nor have we since.”
Expulsion by a seminary rector normally reflects a grave moral or academic failure and is generally taken by the sponsoring bishop or religious superior as an indicator of the seminarian’s unsuitability for ordination. Withdrawal is an action initiated by a seminarian or his sponsoring bishop. However, in both instances, according to sources, a bishop would still have the authority to decide whether to pursue further seminary formation for the seminarian at another seminary.
The Register has learned that, of the seminarians removed, seven were from the Diocese of Paterson, five were from the Archdiocese of Hartford, and one was from an unnamed religious order.
The diocesan seminarians were sponsored by Bishop Arthur Serratelli, the current bishop of Paterson, and Archbishop Henry Mansell of Hartford, who was succeeded in 2013 by Archbishop Leonard Blair. Archbishop emeritus Mansell, who previously served as the bishop of Buffalo from 1995 to 2003, is currently living at the rectory at St. Paul’s parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut.
None of the five expelled seminarians from Hartford were ordained to the priesthood. However, the priest ordained by the Archdiocese of Hartford in 2010, who was involved in the incidents investigated at Holy Apostles and whom the investigation revealed had allegedly been expelled from another seminary for sexual misconduct, remains a diocesan priest.
The priest, who, according to sources, was alleged to have been sexually involved with seminarians and even to have physically assaulted one of the seminarians at a beach house in New Jersey not long after his ordination, was serving as pastor of a parish in the Archdiocese of Hartford until late November. While he remains a priest in good standing, he resigned his pastorate Nov. 20 for undisclosed reasons.
With respect to this priest, Father Ryan Lerner, the chancellor of the archdiocese, told the Register in a Nov. 13 email, “The archdiocese is unable to respond to your latest questions, as they involve personnel information … which the archdiocese is required to keep confidential pursuant to Connecticut’s ‘Personnel Records Act’ (Connecticut General Statutes, Section 31-128f).”
Three Archdiocese of Hartford transitional deacons, two of whom had attended Holy Apostles and were scheduled for priestly ordination in May 2012, figured prominently in the seminary’s investigation.
Father Lavers told the Register his investigation uncovered forensic information on the deacons’ computers that led to websites that catered to homosexual and pedophilic tastes and received testimony from seminarians that they were sexually involved with other seminarians and diocesan priests from Hartford and Paterson.
Four days before the transitional deacons’ ordination, Father Lavers said that a dossier was hand-delivered to Archbishop Mansell’s office. It included the evidence gleaned from the seminary’s investigation into the seminarians, which included information on the archdiocesan priest and the transitional deacons. The evidence included photos and screenshots from the websites taken from the forensic evidence. The dossier delivered by Father Hillier also included a letter from Holy Apostles asking that the deacons not be ordained.
On the day the transitional deacons were to be ordained to the priesthood, with their families in attendance at St. Joseph Cathedral, the archdiocese announced a delay of their ordinations in order to conduct its own investigation.
The Archdiocese of Hartford newspaper, the Catholic Transcript, reported May 18, 2012, “Three candidates from Colombia, who were listed among the ordinandi in the program, had asked permission to delay their ordination in a letter to Archbishop Mansell, he announced.”
Father Lavers said that, in a conference call with Archbishop Mansell and “three or four other priests” of the archdiocese in May 2012 to discuss his findings, Father Lavers explained the methodology of how the investigation was conducted and where the archbishop could find additional evidence that could be added to the original dossier against the deacons to be ordained.
More than three months later, Father Lavers said he was contacted by retired FBI agent Frank Rudewicz, who told him he was investigating the incident for the archdiocese. Rudewicz declined comment for this story.
Two Ordinations Occurred
One transitional deacon was permanently removed from archdiocesan formation due to information provided to the archdiocese by Holy Apostles. The other two deacons — one who was studying at the Theological College in Washington and the other, listed by Holy Apostles as a “commuter” for the Archdiocese of Hartford who was on a summer assignment at a parish in Enfield, Connecticut — were ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Mansell in December 2012.
Father James Shanley, Hartford’s vicar for communications, confirmed to the Register via email that the transitional deacons were scheduled to be ordained to the priesthood in May 2012.
“They were not, as a result of the investigation and allegations occurring at Holy Apostles, which was underway. Following that investigation, the Archdiocese of Hartford conducted its own,” he said. “After a summer assignment, Archbishop Mansell made the decision to ordain them priests in December of 2012 based on the fact that the AOH investigation found no reason to cancel their ordination and no pertinent evidence on their computers.”
In a Nov. 26 interview with the Register, Archbishop Mansell told the Register his decision to ordain the deacons named in the Holy Apostles investigation was the result of the investigation he commissioned.
“The archdiocese conducted an intensive, professionally run investigation,” he said, adding it was “supervised” by then-vocation director Father Michael Dolan. The results of the investigation led the archbishop to believe “the charges against the two deacons were invalid.”
Father Lavers told the Register Nov. 9 that he had urged Archbishop Mansell and archdiocesan officials at the May teleconference to confiscate the deacons’ computers to obtain further forensic evidence and then was informed by the archdiocese after it conducted its report more than three months later that one of the computers had been “recycled” and another had been “sent home.”
In addition, in an early November interview with the Register, Father Mosey recalled that there was a break-in at the seminary in May 2012 soon after the initial investigation, and it was discovered that files were stolen. Father Mosey said the only files that were stolen were those of Hartford seminarians related to the Holy Apostles investigation. He didn’t file a report with the Cromwell police.
The transitional deacons and the priest named in the Holy Apostles investigation are, according to Father Shanley, priests in good standing.
“Priests of the Archdiocese of Hartford are in ‘good standing’ if there are no substantiated allegations of misconduct against them,” Father Shanley told the Register in an Oct. 31 email. “Archbishop Blair has told all the clergy of Hartford that living a ‘double’ or secret life sexually in serious sin with or against another is to betray not only the priesthood, but the people, and that ‘if someone is given to behaviors that betray his priestly ordination, then he should seek help, and if he cannot commit to doing so, then he ought to seek voluntary laicization.’”
He added, “Any information or reports concerning alleged sexual, financial or other misconduct are investigated, even using outside professional investigators, when necessary, to establish the facts and to proceed accordingly.”
Of the seven men from the Paterson Diocese removed from Holy Apostles, two Paterson seminarians who figured in the investigation were ordained to the priesthood. One other Paterson seminarian involved in the homosexual network referenced in the investigation, but who was studying at another seminary, was also ordained to the priesthood for Paterson, which in recent years has been one of the top five U.S. dioceses in terms of per capita numbers of vocations to the priesthood.
In a statement provided to the Register Nov. 8, the Diocese of Paterson said, “No seminarian dismissed in 2012 from Holy Apostles College and Seminary for homosexual activity was ordained to the priesthood in the Paterson Diocese.” The statement did not comment, however, regarding the seminarian studying elsewhere, who was also named in the Holy Apostles investigation.
Nor did it clarify if two of the seminarians involved in the investigation were withdrawn by the diocese, rather than dismissed or expelled by the seminary, and later ordained as diocesan priests. Documentation obtained by the Register indicates that, in total, 17 seminarians from the Diocese of Paterson were studying at Holy Apostles in the spring of 2012.
The Register has also learned that some of the seminarians named in the investigation from both dioceses sought entry to and were recommended to seminaries in other dioceses.
According to a 2005 Vatican instruction, men with “transitory” homosexual leanings may be ordained deacons following three years of prayer and chastity. However, men with “deeply rooted homosexual tendencies” or who are sexually active cannot be ordained.
In 2006, Bishop Serratelli chaired the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Doctrine when it published “Ministry to Persons With a Homosexual Inclination,” which reaffirmed Church teaching that a homosexual inclination is not sinful in itself, but that homosexual activity is gravely disordered and sinful.
At that time, Bishop Serratelli told USA Today, “Homosexual acts are never morally acceptable. Such acts never lead to happiness” because they are “intrinsically disordered.”
Seminaries vs. Dioceses
Father Mosey told the Register that, as with the McCarrick scandal, the incident at Holy Apostles was widely known inside the Church, yet unreported. Six years later, residue of the 2012 scandal continues to overshadow the small seminary, which has a reputation for Catholic orthodoxy, according to former seminarians.
“There is little doubt that such a scandal does serious damage to the reputation of the seminary,” Father Mosey said. “The ‘troubles’ of Holy Apostles are well-known and widely discussed in seminary and diocesan circles. As I traveled to ordinations this summer, I attempted to give an honest but general overview of the situation to the bishops and vocation directors who support Holy Apostles.”
“By and large, they expressed gratitude that decisive action was taken to protect the priesthood and the Church from further scandal,” he said. “On the other hand, I have been told that a competing narrative of ‘blaming the messenger’ is being repeated, whose message is that the formation program at Holy Apostles is broken and false allegations have been made by the seminary.”
Sources told the Register that minor seminaries, such as Holy Apostles, are beholden to dioceses and, consequently, can be tempted to compromise their values by taking in questionable seminarians.
A former formator, commenting on background, told the Register that seminaries work for the dioceses, and it’s up to the seminaries to form the men for their “customers.”
“The dioceses are the real gatekeepers,” he said, adding that it’s the dioceses’ responsibility to vet seminarians, collect their transcripts and any psychological evaluations and provide them to the seminaries.
Both Hartford and Paterson severed ties with Holy Apostles after the incident. Father Shanley said Hartford currently sends its seminarians to Our Lady of Providence in Rhode Island, St. Charles Borromeo in Philadelphia, Mount St. Mary’s in Emmitsburg, Maryland, the Theological College in Washington and the Pontifical North American College in Rome. The Diocese of Paterson has not responded to the Register’s inquiry regarding where its seminarians currently study.
‘Window of Transparency’
Those involved in the investigation said they are coming forward now, in the context of the scandal surrounding disgraced ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, because they didn’t think the bishops would have addressed the problem otherwise.
Father Lavers, currently serving at St. Patrick’s parish on Hayling Island in England, in the Diocese of Portsmouth, told the Register that the Holy Apostles investigations team presented the results of their investigation to the bishops of Paterson and Hartford immediately, but that their collective response was dismissive of the gravity of the situation.
In the current context, Father Lavers added, “We now have a wonderful window of transparency and openness in the Church.”
Thomas Wehner is the Register’s managing editor.