Jesuits Notify St. Joe’s Prep Community of Credible Allegation


Click here to read: “Jesuits seek information on contact by St. Joe’s Prep teacher in 1970s,” by Martha Woodall, The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 9th, 2013.

The president of St. Joe’s Prep sent the following letter to alumni.

Dear Prep Alumnus,

As we begin a new year, I wish you blessings during 2013. We are just a few days into classes after a holiday break and our students and faculty are gearing up for exams.

While I wish I was simply writing to you to wish you a Happy New Year, sadly I must also share with you some troubling news. The Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus has informed us that they have received a credible allegation from a St. Joseph’s Prep alumnus of inappropriate contact by Fr. Stephen M. Garrity, S.J., dating to the 1970s. At the time, Fr. Garrity was on the faculty and the individual was a student. The Jesuit province has reported the allegation to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, the individual has been offered counseling and the allegation has been referred to the Jesuit Province Review Board. Fr. Garrity has not been in ministry since 2007 following an admission of inappropriate conduct with adults.

We take all allegations of inappropriate conduct very seriously. This message has been sent to all alumni who were students at St. Joseph’s Prep during Fr. Garrity’s tenures (1964-67 and 1971-79). Anyone who may have information about inappropriate conduct by Fr. Garrity or any clergy or employee of St. Joseph’s Prep should please contact the District Attorney’s Office (215-686-8000) and/or Maureen Locher, special case manager for the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus (443-921-1326 or mlocher@mdsj.org).

All incidents of inappropriate conduct, whether from the past or more recent, are unsettling to us whose first priority is the safety of our students. We offer the prayers and support of the St. Joseph’s Prep community to this victim and to all other victims of abuse of any kind, especially that perpetrated by priests and others in positions of trust.

Stories such as this are further proof of our need to strive every day to provide a safe environment for our students. Over the past several years the Prep has taken particular care to create a “safe environment” for all of us here at the Prep, especially our students, as we consider the protection of our students from abuse or danger of any kind as our top priority. Therefore, the Prep continues to screen, train and educate our faculty, staff and students. In addition, the St. Joseph’s Prep leadership team and trustees have carefully reviewed our practices and continues to update our procedures to ensure that we are in full compliance with the law and the “best practices” developed under direction from Praesidium, Inc., a nationally known leader in risk abuse management. Praesidium was engaged by the Prep in 2006 to review our procedures and the files of our staff and faculty. We have been following with care the “best practices” that they recommended regarding hiring and training procedures. The files of all of our employees are complete with child abuse clearances and criminal background checks.

I am confident that we will to continue to follow best practices recommended by experts like Praesidium, Inc., and continue to provide a safe environment for our students.

If you would like to contact someone at the Prep on this matter, please send an email to president@sjprep.org and you will be contacted.

Thank you.
Rev. George W. Bur, S.J. ’59
President, St. Joseph’s Prep

Fr. Garrity’s ministerial assignments:

1964-67: St. Joseph’s Prep, Philadelphia, PA (Teacher of English, History)
1967-70: Woodstock College, Woodstock, MD (Graduate studies)
1970-71: Gonzaga College High School, Washington, DC (Graduate studies/Student Counselor Assistant)
1971-79: St. Joseph’s Prep, Philadelphia, PA (Teacher of Sociology)
1974-77: St. Joseph’s Prep, Philadelphia, PA (Province Assistant Director of Jesuit Novices)
1975-78: St. Joseph’s Prep, Philadelphia, PA (Chaplain)
1978-82: Loyola Center, Philadelphia, PA (Province Vocation Director)
1982-85: Province Curia, Baltimore, MD (Provincial Assistant for Development)
1985-91: Scranton Prep, Scranton, PA (Rector and Assistant Director for Development)
1991-97: Loyola Retreat House, Faulkner, MD (Director of the Spiritual Exercises)
1997-2001: Loyola Retreat House, Faulkner, MD (Superior and Director)
2001-07: Holy Cross Parish, Durham, NC (Pastor)

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29 Responses to “Jesuits Notify St. Joe’s Prep Community of Credible Allegation”

  1. My Uncle was an alumni of St Joe’s Prep and spoke fondly of his high school years and the education he received.
    A few weeks after the Inquirer article was published that featured Susan and me and our work with C4C for victims and children ,I received a call from my Uncle.. “I saw the article ” he said. I braced myself. My Uncle was the family patriarch filling a void since I lost my Dad when I was a teenager. He was the typical Philadelphia Irish Catholic,educated from the parish school all the way through college at a local Catholic university. He attended Mass weekly and often during the week. He was the son of a generation of Irish immigrants who literally helped to build this Archdiocese with their blood, sweat, tears and money.
    The article that Monica Yant Kinney wrote was fair but ended with a quote from me saying “if there is a shred of humanity left at the Archdiocese” Now he had seen the article and I had no idea what his reaction would be. What happened next though has inspired me many times during the two years. He had been following the clergy abuse crisis since it exploded in Boston in 2002. He was informed, he was furious. This last GJ report has left him shaken.

    He talked for over an hour about all that he knew from all that he had followed in the news. He pulled no punches. “You keep going” he said “Stand up to them, stand up for these kids”
    I took my children to visit him in the nursing home a few weeks later and he pulled out a news clipping with my picture and he had written ‘my niece’ on the article. He showed it to the others in the nursing home. Each time I saw him since then over the past two years he started every conversation with “Are you still going?” “Still keeping at it ?”
    He spent this past Christmas at my home and when I finally had the chance to sit down next to him,he turned and with that Irish mischievous twinkle in his eye he said “So,are you still keeping it up?” Of course I told him,of course.
    Someone asked if Susan and I receive much criticism for being public and speaking up for victims and children within the Catholic community. I will say that it has been minimal, but when it happens, it stings. My Uncle’s encouragement meant the world to me. He passed away yesterday afternoon. He was a good man,a good Catholic,a great father and a compassionate soul . It doesn’t get much better than that.

    • I’m sorry Kathy. Your Uncle sounds like a wonderful man.

      I’m sorry for your loss. May he continue to inspire you! What a legacy he has given you.

    • Kathy, may your beloved uncle rest in peace. KEEP AT IT! STAND UP TO THEM!

    • I’m sorry for your loss Kathy. You uncle sounds like he was a really great man. I was lucky to get a lot of encouragment from my mother before she died last year. She told me, “Go get justice and keep protecting kids.” I know how you must’ve felt when your uncle encouraged you to protect kids and keep it up, because I felt the same way when my Irish Catholic conservative mother, niece of Cardinal O’Connor, former Catholic school teacher, and advid Mass attendee finally recognized what I was trying to do and she was proud of me for it and she told me to “Keep on keepin on,” a little quote from Jack Kerouac that my mother and I used often throughout my life. I just wish I could’ve gotten that same kind of honor and encouragment from her long before she passed away, but better late than never, and at least I know I’m doing the right thing. I hope your family is able to recover after the loss of such a good man. I’ll keep you in my thoughts.

      Also, I’ve already written here several times that I’ve had stones and coins thrown at me during a protest, I’ve been spit on, shoved, threatened with physical harm by priests and parishioners, but that kind of thing really doesn’t bother me as much as the people who say just the most downright cruelest words you could “never” imagine. Some people really have a great skill of being able to say things to victims of abuse that really hurt, and they often seem to feel good about themselves when they make us feel bad. I could never figure out a way to reconcile those instances when a parishioner or priest said something that really sent chills up my spine and activated the tear ducts. Some stuff just hurts and I won’t deny it and I won’t pretend to know how to deal with it either.

      Anyway, peace out to you and your family, Kathy. Wherever your uncle is now, I’d like to send him a “Thank you” for encouraging you to “keep it up,” because you and many people here have shown me that people do care about us, they believe us, and they have helped us. YOU have helped me. Thank you!

      Peace out!
      Rich

    • Kathy,

      Very sorry about your loss. From what you’ve said, it sounds like he was a real ‘stand-up’ kinda guy.

      As you know, he’s now in heaven and will continue to view your activities with interest.

    • Truly sorry for your lost…….I know he will be whispering in God;s hear………..that my niece…….she is keeping it up:) Peace and hugs

    • Kate FitzGerald (hadit) Reply January 11, 2013 at 11:21 am

      Kathy,

      I extend to you my deepest sympathy on the loss of your Uncle. His strong Catholic identity did not stand in the way of, or blind him to, the horrific truth of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. It truly was a testimony to the authenticity of his Catholicity. In simply acknowledging the truth of our Church’s dark history and encouraging your and Susan’s work, he soothed the wounds of victims and survivors– he helped “the least among us.” At a time when there are still so many of the faithful who feel obliged to protect the Church and clerics, refusing to acknowledge the crimes, the corruption, and the plight of victims and survivors due to fear, or indoctrination, or ignorance, your Uncle exemplified how “good Catholics,” regardless of the pain and heartache, seek and confront the truth. There is no goodness or godliness in illusions.

    • Your uncle sounds like a good man. I think it has been especially hard on his generation to accept the depth of the abuse crisis because trusting all priests was so engrained in them. So how much love and trust he must have had in you to support you and to believe your cause and how much it must have pained him to admit the truth to himself about his church’s failures. Someone calls him an authentic catholic – I can think of no better way to describe him and his courageous niece. Blessings to you.

  2. This is the sort of letter that the archdiocese should have been mailing for many years, and should be mailing now. It would likely be mailing them now if the people running the archdiocese understood that the Church is people and not bricks and possessions.

  3. Kathy, so very sorry to hear of the loss of your uncle. But rest assured, that as he inspired you, so you also inspired him. He sounds like a fair and just man. Keep up your wonderful work in his memory. You do him great honor.

  4. Kathy, please accept our sympathy at the death of your uncle. He really had it together and it is his voice encouraging you and Susan to continue this ministry that is the of most importantance as a verbal legacy to you both. His voice and his ideals will never be lost when he has such a wonderful niece as your self and your wonderful companion Susan. Writers to this blog keep you and your family in our thoughts and prayers. You are doing what your uncle, with his clarity of vision, would hope from his family.

  5. So sad, like so many of that generation, I wonder what he had to sit on all those years ago.

  6. I find this letter kind of strange and I really can’t explain why or put my finger on anything in particular. It seems to be written a lot differently than many of the church’s press releases of an allegation of sexual abuse. Does anyone else feel this way?

    • Rich, this letter doesn’t sit well with me either. Its careful, unspecific, wording only raises more questions and doubt for me. It reads just like an AD letter announcing yet another offending pastor.
      It starts out on a high note, and ends on a high note, and in between, it admits little about a terrible wrong done to an innocent boy. Although the word “unsettling” is mentioned…no heartfelt anguish or SHAME is expressed for all the other boys who were placed at daily risk for decades, while their trusting parents paid out the wazoo for their education.

      I suppose the most basic question it raises for me is: Why is this order of priests still having contact with minors? Who in their right mind really trusts them with teenaged boys? Their record for sexual abuse of minors (esp. in the northwest of N. America) is so incredibly bad, I can’t imagine paying them 20K/yr and placing my H.S. aged son in their hands. They can shove their “best practices” It’s too late. Who still trusts and admires this order?.. Aren’t their benefactors thoroughly disgusted with them by now? Where’s the anger? What does it take?

      (Also, What’s up with the “and / or” option concerning reporting any other known incidents of improper conduct? I would hope a victim would skip the “Jesuit case manager option” and go straight to the DA.)

    • To me it sounds legit and honest. The fact they publish the man’s placement history is HUGE. Also, I have worked with Praesidium – they are independent, thorough, and credible. The Dominicans in the Southern province also hired them. I don’t know of any diocese that has paid for independent training and review assessment and investigation. So, I tend to trust this man. However, for the sake of full disclosure… I was educated by the Jesuits in college and graduate school and sent my sons to a Jesuit high school. So I may be more trusting than others of this order.

      • I too was educated in the Jesuit tradition and I believe it is because of their excellent education and character formation that I am asking the questions that you see throughout C4C. I have repeated the fact that I took 10 Theology courses while a young college student at St. Joseph’s University (BS Math) and it forms the foundation for my advocacy in the pursuit of justice for victims of childhood sexual abuse. The truth of the matter is simply this…….the Ignatian principles and heritage would expect that one stands up for those who are victims of “social injustice”.

  7. Dear Kathy, You have my deepest sympathy on the death of your dear Uncle. What an inspiration he was to you and will continue to be. It is each person, one at a time, that can inspire and give hope. The people who contribute to this site do an enormous service to so many unknown others who read their comments. Yes, we should all “keep on keeping on”. We can all make a positive difference even in a small way.

  8. Father Bur:

    We communicated a number of years ago regarding concerns at St. Joseph’s University, my alma mater (1974-Mathematics). Then as well as now, the issue is the same: the protection of ALL children of the Commonwealth from sexual abuse. In light of your correspondence re the allegation of sexual abuse by Fr. Stephen Garrity at the Prep during the 1970’s, I think it is vital for legislative proposals that would eliminate the statute of limitations both civilly and criminally be adopted and for this reason, a state legislature, Rep. Mark Rozzi, is sponsoring a press conference and rally on January 23rd in the State capital.

    Both he as well as the State Representative covering St. Joseph’s University, Rep. Louise Bishop, have both come out publicly about their own child sexual abuse and indeed these actions took great courage and strength. Would that our Catholic institutions exhibit the same commitment to ALL of our children by encouraging their students to participate in rallies supporting the necessary legislative changes.

    Regardless of what internal measures, processes and levels of accountability are in place within an organization or educational institution, these legislative initiatives are vital in order that child sexual abuse victims can seek legal redress, regardless of when they are able to come forward and identify their alleged abuser. As President of the Prep, you now have witnessed this first hand and you can appreciate just how devastating it has been over the years for this individual. Please help us provide these same opportunities for the many victims of child sexual abuse who, at this present time, are unable to come forward and file a complaint.

    Fr. Bur, can you imagine the difference it would make if The Prep sponsored a letter-writing campaign where Prep students wrote to their individual state legislators encouraging them to vote for the changes outlined in Rep. Rozzi’s proposals? For this writer, I can think of no finer example of “men for others.” More importantly, such advocacy and support would represent “men for children.”

    Thank you for allowing me to communicate with you about this important concern and look forward to your response at your earliest convenience.

    Sincerely,

    Michael Skiendzielewski
    Captain (Retired)
    Philadelphia Police Dept.

    • Mr. Skiendzielewski-It is rather presumptuous of you to suggest that Fr. Bur even respond to your letter about an incident that happened 45 years ago. Asking him to have college prep students write letters with YOUR agenda is specious. Fr. Bur is a good man but what right do you have to tell him what to do? Being “men for others” does not mean doing what you want.

      • Josie:

        I too was educated in the Jesuit tradition and I believe it is because of their excellent education and character formation that I am asking the questions that you see throughout C4C. I have repeated the fact that I took 10 Theology courses while a young college student at St. Joseph’s University (BS Math) and it forms the foundation for my advocacy in the pursuit of justice for victims of childhood sexual abuse. The truth of the matter is simply this…….the Ignatian principles and heritage would expect that one stands up for those who are victims of “social injustice”.

        Josie….

        The point is that the proposed legislative changes to be considered in Harrisburg is about childhood sexual abuse NOW. The last thing my letter is about is to “tell him what to do” !

      • Josie : what right does the rcc to enable and protect abusers ?

      • Josie…….are you still participating in this topic / issue here at C4C? Follow-up comments have been added by others and I wonder whether you have reviewed them?

  9. Josie….

    The point is that the proposed legislative changes to be considered in Harrisburg is about childhood sexual abuse NOW. The last thing my letter is about is to “tell him what to do” !

    • Clericalism is supposed to be a thing of the past. So what’s wrong with asking this particular priest / president to do something REAL and specific in the battle against protecting child abusers? Is he so untouchable? He’s in charge of the welfare of hundreds of teenaged boys…His order has A LOT to answer for when it comes to sex offenders. We can only hope the alumni and his students’ parents are making similar such demands.
      Michael, I think your idea is reasonable and if carried out, could be very powerful. If the Jesuits at The Prep care about justice and the issue of sex abuse, your idea is exactly the sort of thing they should do.

      • Yes, Crystal, the “SILENCE” from the Philadelphia-area Catholic educational institutions, including high schools, colleges and universities, in response to the clergy abuse scandal ever since the release of the first GJR in September 2005 is indeed “DEAFENING.”

        • Nothing to do with the Prep or this situation, but Michael mentions the deafening response from many educational institutions in regards to clergy abuse and the GJ reports. I think most people within the Church do not even read the reports or have much of a clue as to what has happened.

          • Kate FitzGerald (hadit) January 15, 2013 at 3:22 am

            In the U.S., right now, clerical and non-clerical leaders of Catholic, educational institutions risk losing their jobs, careers, and reputations if they go against the Vatican’s authoritative and obedient grain. Some well known Catholic colleges and universities, having presidents who are silent and who have succumbed to the Vatican’s pressure, are now facing pressure from on-campus faculty groups and associations who detest and will not permit the Vatican induced presidential paralysis and silence. The faculty members are expressing votes of no confidence in their presidents. It’s putting presidents between a rock and a hard place. This method may get some leaders of Catholic educational institutions to move and speak regardless of, and in defiance of, Vatican mandates and expectations.

            If Fr. Bur won’t rise to the occasion at Prep, maybe his faculty members can get him there.

  10. Thank you all so much for your very kind words. The priest who officiated at my Uncle’s funeral was friend of over 40 years and gave one of the most personal homilies I have ever heard at a funeral. He was caring, warm, funny and heartfelt. He spoke of my Uncle being an ordinary man who would go the extra mile for anyone in need with no fanfare or need of acknowledgment. Just a person doing the right thing because that is what you do in life.

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