Advocate: Christie Must Act on Delbarton Scandal

An activist who has publicized accusations of sexual misconduct at Delbarton School says he’s called on Gov. Chris Christie for help addressing the allegations, but gotten no reply.

On Jan. 23, Patrick Marker wrote a notarized letter to Christie, himself a parent of Delbarton students, requesting the governor take action regarding Delbarton and its sponsor, St. Mary’s Abbey. He said the governor should appoint a special prosecutor to “conduct interviews and review abbey personnel files, Abbey Review Board notes, and Delbarton School files for any indication of conspiracy, deception, corruption and intimidation.”

It’s been a month, and Marker said he’s gotten no response. Calls to Christie’s office this week by Patch went unanswered as well.

Marker, of Washington, DC, created and maintains On it, he discusses accusations of impropriety at Delbarton, including one that has resulted in an investigation of the school’s former headmaster, the Rev. Luke Travers.

Details of those allegations came to light in January, though an investigation had already been going on for several months by then. A former student Marker has referred to as “Markus” (but also said that’s not his real name) had written to St. Mary’s Abbey in June. Markus alleged that in 1990, when Travers was a teacher at Delbarton, Travers offered the then-student alcohol, and kissed him on the neck and ears. Markus further alleged that after he graduated, when he returned to the school for a visit, Travers tried to convince him they should run away together.

The Abbey has said Travers has been placed under restrictions, and has told Patch that the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office is conducting an investigation; the Abbey will conduct its own inquiry once that process it complete, a spokesman has said. The prosecutor’s office has declined to discuss details of any investigation that it may be conducting.

In his letter to Christie, Marker said it’s time for the governor to step in.

“It is up to you and the parents of Delbarton students to demand leadership and accountability,” Marker wrote. “In the absence of leadership, you must demand change. There has been no leadership.”

Marker requested the governor take immediate action to: Ensure the safety of all members of the Delbarton community; hold perpetrators of misconduct accountable; hold any who covered up misconduct accountable; and allow vicitms to be heard on a respectful manner.

Marker also sent Christie a copy of his “Richmond letter,” in which he described to Most Rev. Francis Xavier DiLorenzo of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, the history of the allegations against the Rev. Luke Travers, who served as Delbarton headmaster from 1999 to 2007.

Marker said at least five former Delbarton students have come forward to describe alleged impropriety by Travers. The most recent was a North Carolina resident who wrote that in 1997, when he was 16, he attended a retreat at Notre Dame of Mount Carmel Church in Cedar Knolls when during a confessional session Travers touched his knee and kissed his neck.

Travers was serving as the non-residential administrator of the Mary Mother of Church Abbey of Richmond, Va., when the first Delbarton allegations surfaced. Travers was removed from that position, which he had held since 2010.

Anthony Cicatiello, a spokesman for St. Mary’s Abbey, said recently Travers is under “most severe” restrictions at the Abbey. Travers is accompanied by another monk wherever he goes, Cicatiello said.

Marker maintains misstatements and lack of action by the abbey’s leadership— especially the Rev. Giles P. Hayes, the Abbey’s abbot—have hampered a true investigation.

“In a Jan. 13, 2012 email to alumni, Giles referred to Travers’ misconduct as a ‘minor boundary allegation.’” Marker wrote to Christie. “Similar minimization occurred during an all-school assembly at Delbarton the same day.”

The statement Hayes sent to the Delbarton community also says that since 2002, St. Mary’s has had an “internal processes to review allegations of sexual misconduct by priests and monks that are considered a national model, in part for the respect it gives to the rights and confidentiality of both victims and those accused.”

“You wear many hats,” Marker wrote to Christie. “With each hat is a new set of responsibilities. I am calling on you as a parent, husband, lawyer, and governor, to put an end to deceptive, destructive and disingenuous practices employed by the leadership at St. Mary’s Abbey and Delbarton School.”

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Advocate: Christie Must Act on Delbarton Scandal
Michael Daigle
February 20, 2012