Thirteen monks from St. Mary’s Abbey have been accused of sexually abusing 30 people over the last three decades, according to a letter from the abbot of St. Mary’s and the headmaster of the Delbarton School, the Morris Township prep school operated by the abbey.
The abuses, said to involve 13 present or former monks and one retired lay faculty member, allegedly occurred between 1968 and 1999.
“We take these accusations very seriously, and we profoundly regret and apologize to anyone who has suffered sexual abuse or harassment because of the actions of a St. Mary’s Abbey monk or Delbarton School employee,” reads the letter from Abbot Richard Cronin and Headmaster Michael Tidd.
“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,” continues the letter, sent to members of the Delbarton community on July 20, 2018, in response to news stories about lawsuits by alleged victims.
Since 2012, eight civil cases brought against the abbey and school have been settled, and seven actions are pending, according to the letter.
“In settling these claims, no restrictions have been placed on the victims’ ability to discuss their experiences. This is consistent with our belief that transparency may help the victims in their healing and help our community and broader society in preventing this from happening again,” the clergymen state.
Policies and programs to ensure the safety and well being of students at these institutions are being audited by Praesidium, a risk management agency. The Abbey and Delbarton also are working with the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, according to the letter.
Settlement payments are coming from insurance, the letter states, and “no donations to the School or Abbey, past or present, restricted or unrestricted, have been, or will be, used for settlements.”
Greg Gianforcaro, a lawyer for defendants in 11 lawsuits, disputed the transparency claims of the Abbey and Delbarton, telling the Bergen Record that his recent clients are “not free to discuss all of their experiences resulting from the litigation.” He declined to elaborate on those restrictions, the newspaper reported.
One survivor, Bill Wolfe, was freed from some portions of a 1988 nondisclosure agreement in 2014.
He told the Star-Ledger that Delbarton fought him “every step of the way,” adding: “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.”