Seton Hall president condemns student harassment of seminarians

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President's Hall, Seton Hall University. Credit: wikimedia/cc by sa 3.0

Dr. Mary Meehan, interim president of Seton Hall University, has issued a strongly-worded letter to the campus community following numerous reports of students harassing seminarians on campus.


"Recently my office has been informed of several instances of foul language and incivility being aimed at members of our Immaculate Conception Seminary,” wrote Meehan in an email sent to the university community on Oct. 15.


This behavior is “unacceptable,” she said, and “cannot be tolerated.”


The university is home to Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology, which currently has about 100 students, including laypeople. Seminary students live together in a separate dormitory, and some of the campus’ 45 priests in residence live in student residence halls.


The exact nature of “incivility” was not explained in the email.


Msgr. Joseph Reilly, Immaculate Conception’s rector and dean of theology, sent an email to Seton Hall’s newspaper, The Setonian, in which he said that he was unaware his students were being harassed until shortly before Meehan’s letter.


“No one reported (harassment) directly to me, but as the father of the house and as dean of the School of Theology, I was made aware of each of the incidents by another priest member of the formation faculty,” Reilly told the paper.


He added that he was “shocked, angered, and disappointed” by the people who harassed the seminarians, saying that they “acted in a manner that does not reflect in any manner who we are as a Catholic university.”


In a statement from the university given to NJ.com, Seton Hall said that they “expect all members of the Seton Hall community to be welcoming and civil in their interactions with one another,” and that “as a Catholic university we hold ourselves to the highest standards.”


In August, Seton Hall announced an independent investigation of both Immaculate Conception and the College Seminary at St. Andrew’s Hall, where college-age students study.


At the time the investigation was announced, Meehan said in a statement that it was in response to allegations of sexual abuse and harassment of seminary students by priests, and the “reported failure of many in the Church’s leadership to hold them accountable.”


Cardinal Joseph Tobin, the current head of the Archdiocese of Newark, approved of the investigation.


The Archdiocese of Newark, which sponsors Seton Hall, had previously paid settlements to two former seminarians from the diocese, following allegations of sexual abuse by Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, who led the archdiocese from 1986-2000.


After leaving Newark, McCarrick became the Archbishop of Washington, D.C., where he was made a cardinal in 2001 and served until his retirement in 2006. In June 2018, the Archdiocese of New York announced that it had received a “credible” accusation of sexual abuse against McCarrick dating back to 1971.


McCarrick’s resignation from the college of cardinals was accepted by Pope Francis in July, 2018. McCarrick is currently residing in a Kansas monastery, where he has been ordered to live in “prayer and penance” pending the outcome of a canonical process.


Seton Hall University is one of the oldest diocesan-run Catholic universities in the country. It has about 10,000 students, including 6,000 undergraduates.

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