Sixth former student claims he was sexually abused by a Delbarton monk

(The Star-Ledger) WASHINGTON — As the head chef at Miriam’s Kitchen, Steve Badt has been turning discarded food into acclaimed meals for the homeless for 11 years. Vegetables from local farmers markets, bruised fruit from Costco and restaurant leftovers are turned into healthy dishes for the desperately hungry of Washington, D.C.

Gourmet magazine has raved about his cutting-edge, soup-kitchen philosophy. First lady Michelle Obama took a tour of his kitchen, sends him vegetables from the White House garden and even mentioned Badt in her new book, released this past week.

In the shadows of George Washington University and the Watergate Hotel, Badt is a celebrity — the Bobby Flay of the disenfranchised.

“We wing it every day,” Badt said as breakfast wrapped up recently. “People ask, ‘What’s on the menu today?’ And I say, ‘I don’t know. Let’s see what we have.’ You deal with reality.”

But the guy who can make eggs Benedict or venison pot pie for 200 in a flash — out of the culinary hand he’s been dealt each day — said he has struggled to make sense of a personal reality:

After 30 years of remaining silent, Badt, 44, says he was sexually abused by a monk at Delbarton School, which Badt attended from seventh through 12th grades, graduating in 1985.

Today, on the steps of the Morris County courthouse, Badt will join a civil lawsuit against the school and St. Mary’s Abbey filed in March by two other alleged victims, he said. Badt brings to six the number of men who, since the start of this year, have alleged decades-old sexual abuse and/or sexual misconduct against Delbarton monks.

In an emotional interview, Badt, a Parsippany native, alleged that Rev. Timothy Brennan, a former Delbarton teacher, fondled him at least four times in Badt’s six years at the Morris Township private school.

In 1987, Brennan pleaded guilty to criminal sexual conduct with another teen student and was ordered into a Missouri rehabilitation facility.

Anthony Cicatiello, a spokesman for St. Mary’s Abbey, which oversees Delbarton, said Brennan “has not been an active part of the monastic community for the past 25 years.” He added Brennan is still a monk, but “has not performed any public priestly ministry for many years” and resides at “a secure facility, where he has no contact with the general public.”

Brennan could not be reached for comment.

Spurred by the recent revelations of the other men, Badt said he wanted to tell his story publicly to stress the urgency “for a complete change of leadership” at the elite prep school. Badt is a high-profile accuser who says he doesn’t want money but wants what he believes administrators prize more: their jobs and their power.

“I’m shocked to learn that some of the same leaders are still at Delbarton,” Badt said. “I thought my story would be dinosaur history, but now I realize, ‘Oh my God, they’re the same players.’ Something must be done.
“I live a comfortable life,” he added. “I have a great job and a great family. I have a professional reputation and terrific people I work for. In some ways, I’m the face of a well-known organization. It’s not easy for me to do this. But if I can help clean house, I want to.”

Badt said the alleged abuse started when he was a seventh-grader — not a loner, “but not one of the cool kids, either.” He was raised in a middle-class household, his parents sacrificing to send him to Delbarton for $10,000 a year, he said.

Badt alleges Brennan fondled him while also masturbating himself — in a classroom after school, following a dance, in Brennan’s room at the monastery and in Brennan’s car outside the fast-food joint where Badt worked as a teen. Badt said he was “12 or 13” at the time of the first incident.

Badt said he decided to come forward after learning about a lawsuit filed in March by Tom and Bill Crane Jr. Now in their 40s, the twins — whose father was a teacher and administrator at the school for three decades — allege sexual abuse by Rev. Luke Travers, a former Delbarton headmaster, and Rev. Justin Capato, a former Delbarton teacher, when they were youngsters.

Since January, three other men also have accused Travers of sexual misconduct when they were teens. No criminal charges have been filed, and Ciccatiello said the abbey’s review board is investigating claims against Travers and Capato.

Attorneys for Travers and Capato say their clients are innocent. Travers has separated from St. Mary’s Abbey, but attorney Gerard Hanlon said Travers is not in contact with minors. Capato remains at St. Mary’s Abbey, also banned from contact with minors, abbey officials said.

In a March press conference on the steps of the Morris County Courthouse, about two miles from the school, the Cranes urged other Delbarton victims to come forward to end years of “secrecy, conspiracy and intimidating victims” by abbey administrators.

Badt said when he read about the Cranes’ plea, the time became right to speak out. Badt said he “certainly wasn’t ready” to reveal the alleged abuse publicly when he was a teen.

“If I had told my parents, they would have gone for the jugular,” he said. “They wouldn’t have agreed to a quiet settlement. I was a kid. I didn’t want that battle. It would’ve been messy, and I was embarrassed. Then, for decades, I blamed myself.

“My wife said to me, ‘You haven’t talked about this in 15 years, why all of a sudden?’ It just feels like the right time.”

Badt said he recalls feeling “dirty” after each incident.

“I still have anger for myself,” he said. “The incidents in junior high – I was just a kid. But the ones while I was in high school are difficult for me to forgive myself for. But I know now that I was vulnerable and he took advantage of that.”

In addition to sweeping out Hayes and other administrators, Badt says he wants to help change the state’s statute of limitations on child sex abuse. The current limit is two years after the abuse has been identified.

Sex abuse experts, testifying in December, encouraged state lawmakers to move a stalled bill that would widen that window, but there has been no traction.

“It took a while, but I’m ready to speak out,” Badt said. “I thought, ‘You could help people come forward, you could help the legislation, you could help clean up Delbarton.’ For me, it’s a no-brainer.”

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Sixth former student claims he was sexually abused by a Delbarton monk
Tuesday, June 05, 2012
Kevin Manahan
The Star-Ledger