2002 Confroy Letter re Brennan, Ugliano

While it is painful for us to see old wounds reopened and to confront new allegations, we are resolved to see the process through with openness, candor and fairness to all concerned. I begin with a summary of the cases of Father Timothy Brennan and Father Bruno Ugliano. … [Brennan] was relieved of all priestly duties in March of this year, and is currently in seclusion at a renewal center for sex offenders in the Midwest where all his activities are strictly supervised and monitored.

2002 Letter from Abbot Thomas Confroy

Dear Parents, Alumni, Trustees and Friends:

Recent press reports have brought attention to new charges of sexual misconduct that affect St. Mary`s Abbey and the Delbarton community, and revisited an old one. I write to familiarize past and present parents, alumni, trustees, and other friends of the Abbey and School with the status of cases now in the papers, the process involved, and steps the School has taken over a period of years to ensure the safety of students at Delbarton.

While it is painful for us to see old wounds reopened and to confront new allegations, we are resolved to see the process through with openness, candor and fairness to all concerned. I begin with a summary of the cases of Father Timothy Brennan and Father Bruno Ugliano.

The Father Timothy Brennan Case

As has long been a matter of public record, a former student filed a sexual misconduct complaint in 1986 against Father Timothy Brennan concerning an incident that had occurred in 1984. At that time, Father Timothy, a teacher and guidance counselor at Delbarton, acknowledged criminal misconduct involving this student.

Upon learning of the allegations in l986, Father Timothy was immediately dismissed from his position and admitted into a specialized medical treatment program in Maryland. The Abbey cooperated with prosecutors completely, a guilty plea was entered before the Superior Court, and pretrial intervention was approved as part of Father Timothy’s sentence.

Under constant supervision and rehabilitative treatment, Father Timothy has never since resided at St. Mary’s Abbey or been permitted to work with children. At the recommendation of his doctors and therapists, he ministered as a chaplain at a nursing home and hospital in Lakewood, NJ. He then moved to a monastery in Elmira, NY, where he had very limited ministerial duties.

That monastery is a more contemplative community, without an external apostolate such as a school or parish. He was relieved of all priestly duties in March of this year, and is currently in seclusion at a renewal center for sex offenders in the Midwest where all his activities are strictly supervised and monitored.

Beyond our direct responsibilities to the authorities at the time of the allegation, we were sensitive to the need for the greater community to know the facts. Delbarton issued a letter to parents and responded openly to all media inquiries — all nearly two decades before the current climate of crisis began to force greater accountability in such difficult matters.

The Allegation Against Father Bruno Ugliano

Very recently, St. Mary’s Abbey learned from the Archdiocese of Newark that a woman has named Reverend Bruno Ugliano in a complaint. Father Bruno vehemently denies the
allegation, and is represented by personal counsel in the matter. When the allegation was made known to us, it had already been reported to the Union County Prosecutor’s office.

As I conveyed to the press, not all allegations are alike, and we will not rush to precipitous judgments on incomplete evidence when the reputation and future of an individual
hangs in the balance. Father Bruno is innocent until proven guilty.  There have never been any other accusations against him in his 30 years as a priest. However, St. Mary’s Abbey has recalled him from his post as Campus Minister at Rider University, in accordance with the wishes expressed by Bishop John M. Smith of the Diocese of Trenton.

I have also directed Father Bruno to suspend all public priestly duties pending resolution of the process. Although he may visit the Abbey occasionally, he will not reside here nor have
unsupervised contact with students, and he will not be assigned any new duties until the investigation is completed. No adverse inferences should be drawn from these decisions.

The Process

The Union County Prosecutor’s Office will investigate the charge against Father Bruno, along with similar charges against two other priests the woman has accused. Although the statute
of limitations for criminal prosecution has passed, the Prosecutor’s findings will be provided to the Archdiocese of Newark for evaluation.

The Abbey has asked its attorneys to pursue aggressively a complete review of the allegation, and we will decide on an appropriate course of action once all relevant information has
come to light. We will rely heavily on the results of the evaluation by the Archdiocese Response Team in determining a proper course of action at that time.

The process being followed is substantially the one the Abbey has always followed whenever evidence of wrongdoing came to light. We have insured that the information has been provided to the prosecutor’s office, and refrained from public comment out of respect for the alleged victims.

This was also the procedure in two other cases that were reported this week: a second allegation against Father Timothy, and a new allegation against a former Monk by an alumnus who was an adult at the time of the alleged misconduct. Both allegations date to the 1980s, and concern individuals who have long since left the campus and no longer reside in the state.

Steps Already Taken

Following the experience of the Brennan case in the mid-1980s, the Abbey conducted several administrative seminars on the responsibilities of those in authority. We believe that our highly visible response to that situation sent a strong message to our faculty and staff that misconduct would not be tolerated, many years before the current national scandal emerged.

More recently, the lessons we have learned ó from our own experience and from recent disclosures throughout the country — were the basis for a new written policy adopted for the School by the Board of Trustees at its June 6, 2002 meeting. The rules apply to all faculty and staff, both monastic and lay.

The policy is comprehensive, clearly defining sexual harassment and abuse for the benefit of teachers, staff and pupils alike. It establishes a more systematic reporting structure, including the requirement that all staff report any knowledge of wrongdoing directly to the Headmaster. It provides for the creation of a dedicated personnel link to the New Jersey Department of Youth and Family Services.

Although the Order is autonomous in many respects, we will support the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted
three weeks ago in Dallas. We will also support the policy on Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests,
Deacons, or other Churct Personnel adopted at that same conference.

These various rules all aim for the same goals: the safety of those in our care, and the fulfillment of our ministry of education in an atmosphere of trust and the spirit of Christ. St.
Mary’s Abbey will meet to adopt the Charter in the coming weeks.

Lessons Learned

More than 15 years ago. Father Timothy’s case was a painful signal that the impact of criminal behavior can go well beyond the harm inflicted upon a victim. It represents a serious breach of trust, both within the Delbarton family and between our community and the other citizens of Morris County.

Sadly, like many other communities in America, ours has been touched by the betrayal of trust which Pope John Paul II recently named a “mysterium iniquitatis.”

Catholics, their leaders, and society at large are getting some very difficult new bearings in what is an extraordinarily painful process.

Even as the past is dredged up, school codes are being rewritten, just as workplace harassment codes were in the 1990s. The religious orders of the Catholic Church whose ministry is education have a particular duty to enforce those standards of moral decency and rectitude that are the foundation of their calling.

Our policy at St. Mary’s Abbey and Delbarton School will continue to be one of zero tolerance toward sexual misconduct of any kind committed upon an adolescent, a student or anyone. As we have in the past, we will report past or present misconduct immediately to the appropriate legal authorities. Prompt canonical action will be taken as appropriate. Moreover, we endorse the report of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops recently adopted at their Dallas meeting and will immediately endeavor to implement its recommendations.

We pray that the cases now being discussed are the last that directly affect our community, but we are no longer naive. We acknowledge the possibility that additional victims of misconduct may come forward, as many others have long after the fact in other cases throughout the country.

It is important that the Abbey remain evenhanded and objective in its assessment of all allegations against its members. Only by remaining open and calm can the rights of the accused be balanced with the absolute need to protect our students.

Moreover, the policy of openness that we demonstrated in dealing with the news media fifteen years ago is the same policy we are pursuing today. While communication on these subjects is difficult, such efforts are essential for the preservation of trust and to the long-term reputation of both this monastic and educational community. To assist us in this effort, I would ask that you refer any calls from the media directly to me at my office. This is essential if the Abbey is to meet its responsibilities to alleged victims, to the accused while investigations are
pending, and to the assurance of factual information.

The vast majority of priests, religious, teachers and coaches do some of society’s most vital work honorably, with few worldly incentives but the dignity of their vocation. We recognize and accept our responsibility for the safety of those entrusted to our care. The policies being adopted and implemented, both here at the Abbey and throughout the nation, represent practical new advances in the prevention and reporting of wrongdoing against children. They spring from many months of prayer, research and discussion, and embody our commitment to the
dignity and rights of all members of our community.

I now invite you to join me in fervent prayer that all who minister to children will renew their vigilance for their safety, and that all who have been hurt by any form of abuse will experience healing and peace.

Sincerely in Christ,

Right Reverend Thomas J. Confroy, O.S.B.
Abbot, St. Mary’s Abbey
President, Delbarton School
Morris Township, N.J.