Letter: Former Delbarton Chief Came On to Student

Victims' advocate describes alleged sexual misconduct

Note: This story was last updated at approximately 4 p.m. Friday to include further comment from a firm representing St. Mary's Abbey and Delbarton School, as well as comment from victims advocate Patrick J. Marker.

A monk who served as the headmaster of in Morris Township is being investigated for what the school called a "minor boundary violation with an adult," in a letter to its community.

But victims advocate Patrick J. Marker says the Rev. Luke Travers, who was Delbarton's headmaster from 1999 through 2007, violated sacred trusts in coming on to a student and trying to get the student to run away with him.

"Although the matter has been reported in the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, the conduct is not criminal and no criminal charges were issued," the Rev. Giles P. Hayes of St. Mary’s Abbey said in the letter. St. Mary's runs the school.

Because of the investigation, Travers has been removed from his more recent position as the non-residential administrator of the Mary Mother of Church Abbey in Richmond, according to NJ.com and several Virginia news outlets.

That move was in response to a letter Marker, who runs the website UndertheGreenWave.com—which says its mission is to "disseminate news articles and public information regarding misconduct at Delbarton School and St. Mary’s Abbey"—sent the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, Va.

According to Marker's letter, a former student Marker refers to as "Markus" (but says that's not the alleged victim's real name) wrote a letter to St. Mary's Abbey in June 2011. Marker says Markus' letter describes "grooming" he received from Travers around 1990, when Travers was a teacher.

"My father was diagnosed with terminal cancer during this time and this monk became an emotional support for me," Marker quotes Markus writing. "Along the way, he crossed boundaries which betrayed the inherent trust which is sacred to his position as a teacher and a priest. Apart from inappropriate remarks concerning appreciation of my physical appearance, he would increasingly attempt close contact with me."

It continues: "He invited me back to the monastery (he sneaked me in as lay people are not allowed there), and offered me a beer in his room. He began to talk about how other monks 'visit his room often.'  Then, he asked me to sit on his bed with him. I did not. There were several times when he would hug me (I have no problem with that), but then would start kissing me on the neck and ears. When I protested, he said there was nothing wrong with what he was doing because he loved me."

Marker's letter says the Rev. Simon Gallagher of St. Mary's Abbey responded by telling Markus "I will be in touch later this month to let you know the consequences for Luke Travers. I sincerely apologize for his unpardonable behavior towards you."

Gallagher also reportedly wrote that Travers "can no longer function as a priest anywhere except in the Abbey church nor for anyone other than his fellow Benedictines. He cannot spend time with students or people under 25 years old; no teaching. His only work will be in the business office; he will no longer have a car assigned to him each day. These elements of his safety plan will be reviewed by me and others 6 times each month. The Abbey Review Board is already at work on your complaint and it has been given to the Morris County Prosecutor."

Hayes reportedly told the Richmond Times-Dispatch of those restrictions as well. But "He has not committed a crime," Hayes reportedly told the newspaper.

"Abuse does not have to include the far end to be devastating ... whether a boundary violation or gross sexual misconduct, the effects can be the same," Marker told Patch Friday. "It's a breach of trust."

Marker's letter, like his site, goes on to detail what he says is a history of inadequate or inappropriate responses by St. Mary's and Delbarton to allegations of misconduct. It questions whether individuals in the American-Cassinese Congregation worked to cover up or downplay accusations against Travers and others, and whether responses to allegations are strong enough.

The Morris County Prosecutor's Office told Patch Friday it could not comment on whether it has an active investigation, as a matter of policy.

The statement Hayes sent home to the Delbarton community tells students, parents and others 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."

“During any investigation, we will be equally respectful of the justice process and provide our full cooperation, but with no further public comment. Not until that process is complete can we determine if it is appropriate to comment at all,” Hayes wrote.

The Diocese of Paterson's website says Travers, a native of New York City, was ordained May 17, 1986, at St. Mary's Abbey. In parish ministry, he served at Notre Dame of Mount Carmel Church, Cedar Knolls and in Chatham Township, it states.

Delbarton officials referred questions to a public relations firm, which provided a copy of the same statement sent to the Delbarton community. It also confirmed the school and abbey have hired outside investigators. The firm said the first complaint came in June 2001, and a lay board will review all developments in the case.

Corpus Christi Roman Catholic Church refered any questions to St. Mary's Abbey. The Rev. Bruno Ugliano, of St. Mary's, declined to comment.

Marker told Patch Friday that since the letter, and allegations, have gone public, there have been many who have expressed support. But "some have been very critical of those waiting so long to come forward," he said. He said he didn't intend for his letter to reach the news media, but is glad it did.

Marker—who maintains on UndertheGreenWave.com there's been a pattern of mishandled or covered-up abuse at the school, and who cites news reports he says support that argument—said he initially sent his letter to the Virginia abbey to encourage it to protect its community.

"I would like to see the Abbey make a public statement about the restrictions, the investigations and claims of misconduct by Luke and others—shed some light on the history of misconduct, so more will feel more comfortable coming forward," Marker said. "There are a lot of men, I believe, that have had their lives devastated, certainly changed by, the misconduct at that school. They have tried to put up a good fight, but when trust has been so violated, the boundaries were destroyed. These carry on to later life. It can have devastating effects."

He said he knows the incidents described in the Markus letter are only allegations, but said, "I believe them to be very credible,"

"Why have they been investigating this man for seven months? It blows my mind," Marker said. "They knew all they did know about him and they allowed him to continue to go down to Virginia. It makes no sense."

As for those who have been critical of the website, and the alleged victims, Marker said he hoped they would soften their stances once more was revealed.

"When the abbey comes clean, those resisting and critical of victims, I hope their minds will be changed when the Abbey does the responsible thing. Lend credibility to the allegations, then, they need to deal with them openly."

—Louis C. Hochman, John Dunphy and Laura Silvius contributed to this report.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the Rev. Ugliano was from Corpus Christi.

This post is shared among multiple Patch sites. Comments below may be by readers of any of those sites.

Monk January 16, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Hookerman, I have firsthand knowledge of the situation from thirteen years in religious formation and ministry. How many years did you spend in a seminary or parish rectory? You don't have to like it, but you cannot tell me that dissident leaders are more likely to uphold Catholic doctrine than faithful leaders. Since you claim that the "Catholic Church brought this problem on themselves", please cite the part, section and paragraph number of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which sanctions pedophilia or its cover up. On second thought, don't waste your time. You won't find any; because the problem is the result of dissident, liberal, elitist leaders who thumbed their noses at the Church's doctrine. Oh, liberals are soooo superior for their tolerance and compassion. I just wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of it.
Hookerman January 16, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Sure Tom, just blame the liberals... it's so easy. If you don't like the economy, blame the liberals. If you don't like the laws, blame the liberals. If you don't like the news, blame the liberal media. And if you don't like what happens in the Catholic Church, blame the liberal elitists. It's about as intellectually lazy as you can get... just pull out your handy scapegoat and that explains everything. No liberals that I know of support child molestation, but the Catholic church supported it by actively covering up the sins of its priests, and spending millions defending them, while vilifying the victims. This has nothing to do with the Catechism, it has to do with protecting your own by putting the institution ahead of the victims. Just look at what happened at Penn State, and you'll see a microcosms of what has been going in the Catholic hierarchy for decades. And while there are good priests who take their vocation seriously, and follow the Catechism, did they step forward and put their necks on the line to do anything about the abuse? No! As Edmund Burke said; "evil triumphs when good men do nothing"... and that's exactly what happened at both Penn State and within the Catholic Church.
Monk January 16, 2012 at 10:33 PM
Well, Hookerman, at least your can admit that the Catholic Church's doctrine does not condone pedophilia or its cover up. Blaming the whole mess on the Catholic Church only displays ignorance and bigotry. The pure practice of Catholicism harms no one. The corrupted practice of Catholicism is only that, corrupted practice. I don't understand how you can continue to deny that liberal Catholic leaders aren't the culprits. Would you feel better if I said it was corrupt, liberal Catholic leaders that were to blame? But there is still a problem. Corrupt, liberal Catholic leaders turn a blind-eye to violations of Catholic morality in the name of tolerance and compassion - in effect, covering it up. At least corrupt conservative Catholic leaders alienate the hell out of everyone and they leave the Church.
Monk January 17, 2012 at 01:01 AM
TheMan, whatever that's supposed to mean, Hookerman didn't prove anything. He infers that "good men did nothing", which means that those who knew and did nothing were ... good? This is the kind of twisted liberal logic that makes arguing a point impossible. Those who knew and did nothing were not good. Also, you can count on the Huffington Post to slant a story. Even Wikipedia is more illuminating on the Peter Hullermann case than Huffington.
Moira January 17, 2012 at 01:23 AM
To me, it's very simple. Of course, the CC doesn't condone pedophilia. Duh. But it has had an entirely inadequate response to the instances in its midst, and hasn't looked into the "why" of what is happening (and has been happening for CENTURIES) and Father Giles's "inappropriate boundaries" comment is emblematic of that. It's so easy to say that "outside influences" have perverted the Church, i.e. "liberal elitists," but the fact of the matter is that the church IS the people who comprise it, and that has always been the case. Admit it is flawed. For me, allowing a married father of four to be a priest in my parish (converted Presbyterian or something) but not allowing devout, celibate women to be priests was really the last straw. The CC likes its dogma more than Christ's true principles. It can never see the forest from the trees. Tom, it sounds to me like you're looking for someone to blame for the near-demise of the Church's respectability. I'm half expecting to hear from you that this all that Arab Muslim Obama's fault.
Hookerman January 17, 2012 at 01:55 AM
Well Tom, I was trying to be nice to the Catholic church and point out that not all priests were bad. But if you want to call this "twisted liberal logic", then we can have it your way. The whole of the church is evil. The Pope is evil, the whole Vatican hierarchy is evil, and every single priest who knew but did not take action is evil. Does that make you happier if I say that?
Monk January 17, 2012 at 04:37 AM
Moira, I have the impression you are a disappointed former Catholic, vis-a-vis your "last straw comment". Here's the bottom line: Catholicism isn't about who gets to be the priest. There is a treasure trove of theology and spirituality, much of which has been contributed by women, that most mechanical Catholics haven't the faintest clue of. All of this focus on priest pedophilia, male-only priesthood, dogma-over-whatever, have you received your sacraments on schedule, what's the social justice flavor-of-the-month, other ridiculous stuff, etc. is a total sideshow and distraction. It bugs me that Catholic bigotry is often the only response to this carnival of superficiality. If someone's left or criticized the Catholic Church over one facet of a multi-faceted religion, they should at least admit that they are so narrow. The correct response to these pedophilia stories isn't Catholic-bashing, it's "Catholicism is a whole lot bigger than this egomaniacal-jerk-in-the-headlines". Any other response is small.
Moira January 17, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Tom - You're getting closer, though it's hardly one facet I object to. The married priest with kids was the last straw, not the only one. I haven't bashed the Catholic Church anywhere here, just the louts that seem to be running the show. You say "Catholicism isn't about who gets to the priest." That may be true, but the Church is all about who is the priest.
Concerned January 17, 2012 at 02:59 PM
The Patch, the Is comment by TheMan is insulting beyond anything I have read on the Patch. It is hateful, uninformed and extremely insulting. I would ask it be removed in accordance with your policies.
Shane Ronan January 17, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Concerned, While you may not agree with "TheMan" everyone has a right to their opinion. It may not match your own, but that does not make it hateful, uninformed or insulting.
Concerned January 17, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Shane, TheMan crossed the line by attacking my faith in a very egregious manner. If he wrote it as graffitte on my churches door it would be a hate crime. I agree with everyones right to criticize the church leadership for the awful and horrendous handling of the pedophile tragedy. I too have openly criticized them.
Monk January 17, 2012 at 09:17 PM
OK, Moira. In general (and not in response to you), I just don't understand why anyone would focus on the negatives of the Catholic Church when its positives so far outweigh them. You can have you pick of authors from two thousand years of writings on all things sacred and inspiring. The Catholic Church gets rotten coverage in the media, and most people are closed-minded. It's like going to a fine restaurant and picking something personally unappetizing from the menu on the day the chef decides he doesn't give a damn about culinary traditions.
Hookerman January 17, 2012 at 10:58 PM
Tom, the fact that you would meld the child abuse travesty equally together with the church's male-only priest policy shows how incredibly out of touch you are.
Moira January 17, 2012 at 11:28 PM
Tom - I like Saint Thomas Aquinas, but I like Uta Ranke-Heineman, too. That pretty much sums it up about me.
Monk January 18, 2012 at 02:24 AM
Wow, and your head hasn't exploded?
Moira January 18, 2012 at 01:05 PM
Any day now ...
Jersey January 18, 2012 at 05:03 PM
I find it appalling that anyone on any side of this issue can jump into a political rampage over it. What the hell does any of this have to do with "liberals" or otherwise? I certainly hope we can all agree that everyone, regardless of political bias or religious affiliation wants to ensure our children are safe from sexual predators. Conversely, I think we can agree that no one wants to see a falsely accused man hung in a witch hunt - take a deep breath, everyone. It's no attack on the school or Catholicism to assert that allegations such as these should be taken seriously, and investigated accordingly. For the record, I don't have kids at Delbarton, nor do I have kids who have applied there as they are toddlers. I've had friends attend who loved it, and would consider it an option for my own assuming I could afford it and they could get in. But I sure as hell want to make sure that the people who are running ANY school I consider for my boys take this issue very, very seriously.
Monk January 18, 2012 at 06:49 PM
Jersey, how can you take allegations seriously and investigate accordingly without searching for the root cause? I hold that there is a systemic cause, and it has nothing to do with the Catholic Church's doctrine, but rather defective leaders.
Concerned January 18, 2012 at 07:01 PM
i think the issue is the term liberal vs conservative, which we equate to a point on the political spectrum. I see it differenly when we speak about the interpretation of biblical principles and Church teachings. Their is no question that the seminaries in the 60's and 70's and perhaps beyond, took a very so called progressive approach to Church teachings. The requirements to become a Priest became lax. The Vatican tired to rein in the US Bishops in this regards and have made progress. That said I have no idea if this happened as well in Ireland, where pedophile priests really did tremendous damage.
Hookerman January 18, 2012 at 07:40 PM
I don't really think this addresses the underlying problem. First off, one thing you learn about child abuse is that it's never the people you expect. Often it is the pillar of the community, the master of his industry who is guilty. A priest who is exemplary in every other way, can still be a pedophile. That's why members of the congregation are so often in denial... because they can't fathom that this upstanding member of the church can be guilty. BUT, the real failings of the church is not selecting the wrong people, it's how they dealt with the situation. They didn't hole the priest accountable in any way, they did not remove him from the priesthood, they simply transferred him to another location where he continued his abominable behavior. Meanwhile, the church would defend these priests, and vilify the victims
Hookerman January 18, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Even today, I don't think the church has a good handle on the situation. It wasn't that long ago that John Paul II said that priests would only be defrocked if their behavior was 'notorious' (how many kids have to be molested to be considered notorious?). And Benedict hasn't done much but apologize to the victims. Nice... but how does that help us going forward??? I think the Catholic Church desperately need a tough policy against child molestation that results in the priest getting immediately defrocked, and the church cooperating with authorities to prosecute the priest, rather than spend millions defending him. The priests need to know they will be held accountable for their behavior, and the church will not be there to back them up.
Monk January 18, 2012 at 08:58 PM
OK. Now we can all agree. It is defective leaders at the root of the priest pedophilia scandal ... not liberals, not conservatives, not the whole entire church ... just defective leaders. Maybe I shouldn't ask but, "What are the characteristics of a defective leader?"
fishystory January 20, 2012 at 04:41 AM
Can someone tell how and if Delbarton explained this to the parent/students? Did they call or have a parent meeting at the school or did they get the information from SL?
fishystory January 20, 2012 at 04:57 AM
Is it true that he taught classes last year until June? If so I think parents should be asking questions to why he was not removed.
jpppp January 20, 2012 at 04:15 PM
It is unfortunately true that Luke is a child molester and has hit on many boys around the world I am told!
jpppp January 20, 2012 at 04:15 PM
ok guys get ready for more coming about Luke because I see articles all over the net each and every day with proof he is a molester!
jpppp January 20, 2012 at 04:17 PM
I am not shocked at all. My buddies went to Delby and also were molested and are afraid to this day to come out and say it. Under the Green Wave. COM is the site that shows EVERY MONK up there now was accused so far! Good record!
fishystory January 21, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Where does it say that more kids were abused?
fishystory January 21, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Your friends were abused @ Delby and no one said anything because they were afraid of what? The school or Luke?
fishystory January 21, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Does anyone know what Delby is telling the parents n students? What is the press release?


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