A Catholic priest who faces at least six allegations of sexual harassment is scheduled to speak tomorrow at religious conference in Orlando.
Fr. Dan Ward, a monk from St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, MN, was accused last week of abusing five men and two women while he was a teacher at St. John’s in the 1970’s. The offenses alleged range from unwanted physical contact to threats of failing students for not complying with his advances.
Leaders of an international support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, are upset that Catholic officials are letting Fr. Ward lead a seminar despite the multiple allegations against him, and are calling on officials Maryland-based The Resource Center for Religious Institutes to stop Ward from speaking at their conference this week.
"Once again, despite all the bishops' promises of alleged reform, another credibly accused predator is still on the job in the church and being given a position of prestige," said David Clohessy, SNAP Director. "This, of course, rubs salt in to the already-deep and still fresh wounds of his victims and which enables him to earn the trust of more unsuspecting Catholic families."
According to a schedule posted online (http://www.trcri.org/documents/2012confbooklet.pdf), Fr. Ward is also scheduled to speak tomorrow, Tuesday October 16, at the RCRI convention in Orlando, giving a talk entitled “Resource Tools for Planning for the Future.” According to the booklet, Fr. Ward is the Executive Director of RCRI.
“We call on the RCRI to immediately disinvite Fr. Ward from their conference,” said Clohessy. “They should recognize how hurtful and dangerous it is for a man who has been so often accused of abuse to lead such a seminar and should prevent him from doing so, even if he heads the organization.”
SNAP is also calling on leaders of the Benedictine order (of which Fr. Ward is a member) and St. John’s Abbey to issue warnings about Fr. Ward, explain why the allegations were never publicized, and use what resources they have in order to seek out others who may have been hurt by Ward or witnessed his crimes.
“These Catholic officials are being horribly reckless,” said Clohessy. “These church groups owe it to their members, to Catholics, and to citizens to remove Ward and try to explain their irresponsible actions.”
The RCRI meets tomorrow through October 19 at the Caribe Royale hotel in Orlando.
Clohessy applauded Patrick Marker of a website called “Behind the Pine Curtain” for disclosing the allegations against Ward, and dozens of other Catholic clerics who now live or work – or did live or work - at St. John’s in Collegeville Minnesota.
Ward is also an official with the Canon Law Society of America, which held its annual meeting last week in Chicago. He spoke at that event too.
A photo of Ward is available at http://www.trcri.org/staff.php