A support group for clergy sex abuse victims is calling on the head of a Latrobe, Pennsylvania Catholic abbey to step aside and a national Catholic panel to investigate charges that he sexually abused a young man.
The alleged wrongdoer is St. Vincent Archabbey Archabbot Fr. Douglas Nowicki, a member of the Benedictine religious order which runs the school. The support group is called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
In a detailed, notarized three page statement on a website called
MisconductInLatrobe.com, an unnamed former monk accuses Fr. Nowicki of improperly touching him three times. The site is run by a Washington
state man, Patrick Marker, who was sexually abused while a student at
a Benedictine school in Minnesota.
Earlier this month, a Benedictine official disclosed that from 2009-2012, church officials alleged investigated abuse accusations against Fr. Nowicki but recently “cleared” him.
The disclosure came in an email to St. Vincent staff members from Kim Metzgar, Director of Archabbey and Seminary Public Relations (724 805 2601, firstname.lastname@example.org)
According to Metzgar’s statement, the church's “investigation” into Fr. Nowicki’s alleged misconduct, overseen by the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, officially closed in July 2012
“We have zero confidence in this secretive, so-called investigation,” said SNAP director David Clohessy. “Church officials have repeatedly promised to be open about sexual misconduct and suspend alleged offenders while investigations take place. In this case, they did neither.”
The first incident allegedly took place in a car around 2007, when “without saying anything, the Abbot placed his right hand on my left leg above my knee on the thigh and moved his hand around a bit in the thigh region and even pinched it a few times,” according to the young man’s statement.
The second and third incidents allegedly happened later when the young man was a junior monk. “The Abbot placed his hand on my buttocks and pinched them,” the young man wrote. “He was the Abbot (and) had done so much for me and I really felt like there was nothing I could do.”
After the alleged abuse, the young man says he was “in a state of shock trying to make sense of what happened” and “didn’t feel that I could tell the Abbot how hurt, dirty, and taken advantage of I felt.”
The young man also says that one evening in the abbot’s chapel, he “heard grunts, moans, and other noises one might expect to hear during a sexual encounter. I was able to make out the Abbot’s voice, but could not determine who the other voice was, but it clearly sounded male.”
Ultimately, the Abbot suggested that the young monk leave St. Vincent’s and he did.
At least two clerics involved in the investigation – Fr. Timothy Kelly and Fr. Dan Ward - have both been accused of sexual misconduct.
SNAP is calling on Fr. Nowicki to immediately step down from his position as archabbot until the accusations are definitively resolved. SNAP is also urging the National Lay Review Board, a panel that advises America’s bishops on the church’s on-going abuse crisis, to conduct a credible and “truly independent” investigation into the accusations against Fr. Nowicki.
The alleged victim was legally an adult when the misconduct took place, but SNAP’s Clohessy says that’s “irrelevant.”
“It’s always hurtful and wrong – and sometimes illegal – when a trusted and allegedly celibate cleric abuses his power over students and staff who rely on him,” Clohessy maintains. “And the Benedictines have promised, like other Catholic officials, to be ‘transparent’ in these cases but keep breaking these promises.”
In dozens of places, the abbey’s misconduct policy mentions “vulnerable adults,” Clohessy said.
“This young man felt a calling to be a monk and dedicate himself to God,” Clohessy explained. “Imagine how vulnerable and powerless he must have felt – in the presence of the man who could deny him his vocation and oust him from the school.”
Alleged victim’s statement: http://www.misconductinlatrobe.com/?p=681
Archabbey’s statement: http://www.misconductinlatrobe.com/?p=704
The head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) National Review Board (NRB) is Al Notzon III, of San Antonio Texas. Notzon steps down in June and will be replaced by Francesco C. Cesareo, Ph.D., president of Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts. http://www.usccb.org/news/2013/13-065.cfm
A copy of SNAP’s letter to the National Review Board, being sent today
by fax and email, is below.
Fr. Nowicki worked as a parish priest at Our Lady Queen of Peace in
Pittsburgh in the mid-1980s.
The abbey shares a campus with St. Vincent College.
April 23, 2013
Mr. Notzon III
National Review Board
US Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 Fourth Street
Washington, DC 20017
Dear Mr. Notzen:
We are with a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Our mission is to help protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.
We are writing today about the head of St. Vincent abbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. He is Archabbot Fr. Douglas Nowicki.
Earlier this month, an abbey official, in an email to staff members, disclosed that Nowicki has been investigated for allegedly sexually abusing a young monk. We’re upset by this news, for several reasons.
--No church employee disclosed the allegation when it was made in 2009.
--No church employee disclosed that an alleged investigation was opened.
--Nowicki was not suspended during that alleged investigation.
--No church official (as best we can tell) notified current or former students about that alleged investigation.
--No church official (as best we can tell) revealed the allegation or the alleged investigation to police, prosecutors, parishioners or the public.
--At least two clerics involved in the investigation – Fr. Timothy Kelly and Fr. Dan Ward - have both been accused of sexual misconduct.
(Not surprisingly, as often happens in secretive, biased, internal church “investigations,” Nowicki has been “cleared” by church officials. We are deeply troubled by this.)
For these reasons, and others, we are very skeptical of this alleged investigation.
And we’re worried because the decades-old and often-repeated promises by Catholic officials – at the local and national and international levels – promises to be “open and transparent” in clergy sex cases, are again being violated.
So we’re asking you to take three steps today.
First, join us in urging Nowicki to at least temporarily step down (as he should have done in 2009) until the allegations against him are definitively resolved.
Second, launch a truly independent investigation into this troubling case.
Third, we're asking that you - and others on the board - do what a number of your predecessors did: use your bully pulpit to draw attention to and help resolve this situation. Please, if nothing else, publicly decry the secrecy of the Benedictines and the abbey and publicly denounce such a slanted “investigation.”
National Review Board members are US citizens with First Amendment rights and positions of power and prominence which can be used to help protect innocent kids and vulnerable adults, even if bishops insist on the most narrow and bureaucratic limits on your formal duties.
We look forward to hearing from you.
David Clohessy, Director (314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com)
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
7234 Arsenal Street
Saint Louis, MO 63143
Barbara Dorris, Outreach Director
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
6245 Westminster Place
Saint Louis, MO 63130