An elite all-boys Catholic preparatory school in New Jersey has admitted in an open letter to the school’s community that at least 13 monks associated with the institution have been accused of sexually abusing 30 boys over the past three decades.
Delbarton School’s sprawling green campus, which is managed by the Order of St. Benedict of New Jersey, is affiliated with St. Mary’s Abbey, a Benedictine community of 32 monks, brothers, and priests, according to its website.
The July 20 letter—which was signed by Rev. Richard Cronin, abbot of St. Mary’s Abbey, and the Rev. Michael Tidd, Delbarton’s headmaster—says victims include the sons of a former Delbarton employee, former Delbarton students, a parishioner at St. James Church in nearby Basking Ridge, and former students of St. Elizabeth of Hungary School. All of those who “courageously” stepped forward to report sexual abuse say they were preyed upon by thirteen present or former monks from St. Mary’s Abbey and one retired lay faculty member between 1968 and 1999, according to the letter.
“Protecting the well-being of the students of Delbarton and all those to whom we minister is our highest and most important priority,” the letter said. “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.”
Abbey has so far settled eight lawsuits with the alleged victims from 1968 to 1999, and seven other related lawsuits are still pending, according to the letter.
The Bergen Record also reported last month that another 11 lawsuits have alleged sex abuse at St. Mary’s Abbey and the school since 2012. Five of those lawsuits were settled this year, but another six remain pending, according to the Record.
The Delbarton letter claims that St. Mary’s Abbey officials have immediately removed accused monks from their ministerial positions and barred them from unsupervised contact with minors.
“Abbey officials also immediately notified the Morris County Prosecutor's Office as each allegation emerged,” according to the letter. “The Abbey and school then undertook independent investigations of the allegations after the prosecutor’s office indicated whether it would prosecute the allegations as crimes. In all but one case, criminal charges were not filed.”
The prosecutor’s office reportedly pressed charges in a case against the Rev. Timothy Brennan, who was convicted of aggravated sexual contact with a 15-year-old Delbarton student and sentenced to one year of probation. According to the Associated Press, Brennan has admitted to abusing at least 50 boys. He is the subject of at least eight lawsuits against the school.
“Vigilantly protecting the safety and welfare of Delbarton students, and all whom the monks of St. Mary's Abbey and the faculty and staff of Delbarton serve, is at the forefront of everything we do,” the letter continued. “Nothing is more important to us as we seek to uphold the trust you place in us.”
The local prosecutor’s office has declined to comment on the investigations.