The first class I ever had at Saint Vincent was redacted taught by Fr. redacted OSB at 0830 in the redacted. I did not like redacted much, but was very touched and inspired by Fr. redacted priestly example. I would remain close with him during my time as a collegian and as a monk at Saint Vincent. It was so inspiring to see a priest who was prayerful, holy and courageous and had a lot of interests that I had from sports to the outdoor life. As my college career progress, I became increasingly more impressed by some of the Benedictines at Saint Vincent and in my sophomore year of college began seeing Fr. redacted for spiritual direction.
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I discussed with him my desire to be a priest and how I really felt this was something God had called me too. I had been going to daily Mass and praying each day. As I really began to discern God’s call in my life, I started looking at the local diocese and the Order of Preachers. Despite having many influential Benedictines in my life, I never really considered joining the Monastery at Saint Vincent. I did not have negative feeling towards it, but I just never gave serious thought to it until I decided to make a vocation visit. Surprisingly, I loved the visit and got to meet some of the monks that I had not yet met and for the first time in a long time felt at home. I had met with the Novice Master and Archabbot Douglas and the meeting seemed to go well. The Archabbot was especially supportive because there were a few obstacles to my entering the community. I had tuition bills that I had not been able to pay, had a used car I couldn’t get rid of, and a family that was opposed to me joining the Monastery. The Archabbot was able to arrange something with the business office in the college to have the tuition waived, had the monastery purchase my used vehicle at market value, and even reached out to my family in person and over the phone. I was very grateful for this as it was much needed support at a difficult time.
After graduation in redacted, with the Abbot’s help, I was able to reside in redacted until I would formally join the Monastery on redacted. Up until this point, I really had felt much support from the Abbot and placed a great deal of trust in him. However, it was during this time that I first experienced inappropriate behavior on the Abbot’s part. I can recall sometime during the redacted, when I was still residing in redacted, accompanying the Abbot to Barnes & Noble. I ran into him and he asked me if I’d like to go with him. I remember distinctly that he drove because I remembered him picking me up at the water fountain outside of the Leander Hall. It was only a 10-15 minute drive to Barnes and Noble, but those were some of the most awkward and uncomfortable minutes of my life. Shortly after we started driving, without saying anything, the Abbot placed his right hand on my left leg above my knee on the thigh. He placed it there and moved his hand around a bit in the thigh region and even pinched it a few times. I did not say anything to him, because I did not know what to say. After all, he was the Abbot that had done so much for me and really felt like there was nothing I could do. The weird thing was he never said anything as we were driving over to Barnes and Noble. Once there, he purchased some gift cards, and a few books. I distinctly remember one of the books being about the Steelers because he mentioned getting it signed during training camp. On the way back to the Abbey, the same thing happened again, but the Abbot had to put his hand off a few times because for whatever reason he needed both hands on the wheel. When we got back, I went back to my room in a state of shock trying to make sense of what happened. I didn’t feel that I could tell the Abbot how hurt, dirty, and taken advantage of I felt because of his position. I didn’t know why he was doing touching me that way. It wasn’t just a pat on the leg. I decided just to try and forget about it, but never really was able to for long.
When I was in the Novitiate, the Abbot gave me some freedoms that I did not know any other Novices to have. I was allowed to go home a few times and to go to areas on campus that Novices normally weren’t allowed to go. I didn’t experience that kind of touching from the Abbot during my Novitiate year, but I did witness something that would plague my mind as well as give a context for the Abbot’s behavior. One of my jobs as a Novice was to maintain the two chapels contained within the monastery itself. (The Infirmary Chapel and the Abbot’s Chapel). Though it was called the Abbot’s Chapel, it was used by many different monks to celebrate Mass. I usually waited to do these chores after Night Prayer with usually ended at 915pm. Novices usually weren’t be traveling around after Compline, but the Novice Master didn’t seem to mind because I was just going to the Chapels. One evening as I was going to the Abbot’s Chapel, I had 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. I was horrified by the sounds, but the first thing that came to my mind was the time when the Abbot was feeling up my leg. I began to think, is this where I am going to end up? Is this what happens to people that he shows a special interest in? I didn’t even set up the Chapel for Mass that night because I was so freaked out. I went back to my room very upset. At this point, I was firmly convinced that the Abbot was very inappropriate in his behavior. There were rumors amongst some of the older faculty members in the college and some of the older monks that the Abbot was at a very young age inappropriate with the former Abbot Rembert Weakland and that he had had an inappropriate relationship with Fr. redacted who had just returned from studying in Rome, but when I had these rumors I just dismiss them as rumor. However, what I had observed and experience firsthand caused me to consider them more seriously. Fr. redacted was the Abbot’s Secretary and eventually decided to transfer to the Pittsburgh Diocese, but never showed up his assignment, but instead purchased a home with Fr. redacted, formerly of the Diocese of Greensburg, took a job at redacted and they have since been living together. Once I finished the Novitiate, my life as a monk would drastically change.
When I was a Junior Monk, I began to be harassed by the Archabbot. During July and August of redacted, I found myself frequently in the Abbot’s company because it was when the Steelers were on campus for training camp. I had known many of the staff from Steelers organization because I had worked for three summers on the training camp security staff. For two of those summers, I worked for redacted. Because of this, I was a monastic presence at camp assisting with guests of the college and the Abbey. On two occasions, the Abbot placed his hand on my buttocks and pinched them. I recall the first time specifically because it was the day of the dedication of Chuck Knoll Field and after evening practice we road down to the Abbey from the VIP box at Chuck Knoll Field on a golf cart that the Abbot drove because I was holding a large framed photo of Chuck Knoll that was presented during the ceremony. As we parked and got off the golf cart, I was walking with the Abbot when suddenly I felt his hand on my buttocks and then a pinching sensation. Again, the Abbot did not say anything about this before he did or after. The same thing happened again one evening as I was exiting his office in Roderick Hall. This time I slammed my closed right fist on my left palm because I was so angry. I’m assuming the Archabbot saw me do this but I did not turn around to see if he had. I began to feel so sad. I was very much appreciative of the kindness the Abbot had shown to me, but felt betrayed and exploited because of his actions. I had placed so much trust and hope in him only to discover that he was somebody who felt the need to touch me inappropriately. My entire life, I had never been touched that way by a man that way. Not my grandpa, coach, or close friend. Sometime after the second buttocks pinching incident, the Abbot’s harassment would take on a new form. I had a strong background in playing sports, but before coming to the Monastery and was able to handle the correction someone undergoing formation might expect, but this was much more than that. The Abbot will call me into his office and criticize me for the company that I kept at breakfast. I typically sat with some of the older monks like Fr. redacted, Fr. redacted, Fr. redacted, and Fr. redacted. I found them entertaining, wise, and holy. I also thought it was a kindness on my part to give some attention to some of the older monks that were not regularly engaged on a social level. The Abbot would yell at me and try to make me feel guilty about this. He said I had lost too much weight even though at that time standing at redacted weighed redacted and even suggested redacted I was having an inappropriate relationship with another monk, redacted. What complicated the fact that the Abbot was constantly bothering me about some issue was the fact that my redacted was also dying redacted at the time. I was in a very vulnerable state and just did my best to avoid the Abbot. I simply felt in redacted that it was my time to depart from the Monastery. I was very sad about this because I loved being there so very much aside from my experience with the Abbot, but I felt that I could not stay there without compromising myself. I had already compromise myself enough putting up with his sexually inappropriate touches and just could not go on with it any further. I wanted to return to the community very badly. I had loved it and still do very deeply and the life I had there, but the Abbot would not grant that request and was very hostile towards me. Eventually he said that he felt I needed discernment outside the community. In the long run, that was probably the best decision because being back there when he was there would have just likely been a continuation of his bad behavior towards me and I could not enjoy that kind of treatment any longer.
Signed in the presence of a Notary Public, of Allegheny County.
November 29, 2009
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