A Message from Abbot Giles Hayes, O.S.B
Posted January 18, 2012
To Friends and Families of the Delbarton Community and St. Mary’s Abbey,
St. Mary’s Abbey abhors sexual misconduct, and maintains as of primary importance the protection of minors and the care of victims. Essential to these ends is a robust administrative system.
In the wake of the sexual abuse scandal that overcame our Church more than ten years ago, St. Mary’s Abbey put in place standards for the prevention, identification and review of misconduct by priests and brothers. These standards include absolute cooperation with local law enforcement to ensure the timely reporting of potentially unlawful conduct. They also provide strict supervision of priests and brothers, even when behavior is not deemed criminal by civil authorities, but represents a serious breach of the trust accorded a priest or brother.
With respect to the continued monitoring of Father Luke Travers, St. Mary’s failed to provide the levels of clarity, coordination and accountability needed to uphold the standards that we ourselves set. Our community and, in particular, those who relied on our assurances, deserves to know what went wrong and what we have learned, so that we may avoid similar mistakes in the future.
After we alerted the Morris County Prosecutor’s office of the complaint against Father Luke, St. Mary’s commenced its third-party investigation, through its Review Board, to determine whether Fr. Luke’s conduct under the circumstances justified internal disciplinary action. It should be noted that the investigation by the Abbey Review Board, which is comprised of volunteers who are not employed by St. Mary’s Abbey, is a completely separate process from any investigations that might be undertaken by civil authorities. Although Father Luke was placed on a restricted ministry pending the outcome of the internal investigation, he was permitted to continue his administrative assignment overseeing the financial operations of Mary Mother of the Church Abbey in Richmond, Virginia. We felt that with appropriate controls, Father Luke could continue this vocational assignment in a controlled setting, even with restrictions concerning his contact with minors and young adults.
It is now apparent that the communication from St. Mary’s Abbey to Mary Mother of the Church Abbey concerning the limitations placed on Father Luke’s ministry and mobility was either unclear, insufficiently documented or both. Public confusion over Fr. Luke’s continuing oversight has been further compounded by the conflicting statements by St. Mary’s Abbey and the Diocese of Richmond. I can confirm that the Richmond Diocese was not consulted concerning Father Luke’s travels from one abbey to another or the fact that his ministry was restricted.
We have communicated our apologies to the Diocese and Abbey in Richmond. The policy for communicating to another Abbey was in place, but needed more rigorous reinforcement. In situations such as this, the Abbot of St. Mary’s or his delegate provides written notice regarding a priest’s or brother’s restricted ministry, and any facts regarding any allegations of inappropriate conduct are provided to the Abbot or other designated senior official of another Abbey for each assigned priest or brother. In addition, the Abbot of St. Mary’s or his delegate regularly coordinates and communicates with the Abbot or other designated senior official of another Abbey for each assigned priest or brother whose ministry is restricted to ensure that this priest or brother is properly supervised at all times. I want to confirm that all priests and brothers who are on temporary leave during an investigation have independent, third-party supervision.
In addition, over the past ten years, St. Mary’s Abbey has been accredited twice by Praesidium, Inc., a national third-party professional agency that, as noted on its website, audits and accredits safety programs based on its extensive experience in institutional abuse prevention, psychology, law, and human resource management. Similarly, Delbarton School has had a Praesidium audit and is implementing its accreditation recommendations.
The procedures that St. Mary’s has in place for preventing, identifying and reviewing allegations of misconduct were developed only after learning from past mistakes. It is our hope that the additional lessons that we have learned from this most recent situation will ensure that a promise that we make shall be a promise that we keep.
Abbot Giles P. Hayes, O.S.B.
January 18, 2012