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Ex-seminarian sues NY Archdiocese for $125M, says he was ousted after witnessing ‘totally inappropriate’ behavior

Former seminarian Anthony Gorgia has named Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archdiocese of New York, three priests at the North American College in Rome and several John Does in his suit
Fri Feb 5, 2021 - 11:45 am EST
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Former seminarian Anthony Gorgia

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New York, February 5, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A former seminarian is suing Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the Archdiocese of New York for $125 million, alleging that he was prevented from returning to his studies at an American seminary in Rome because he witnessed the Vice-Rector inappropriately touching another seminarian.

Yesterday an attorney for Anthony J. Gorgia filed a lawsuit on his behalf with the Richmond County New York Supreme Court. The suit names Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan; the Archdiocese of New York; Fr. Adam Park, the Vice-Rector of North American College (NAC); Fr. Peter Harman, the Rector of NAC; Fr. John G. McDonald, a lecturer at NAC; and several John Does. Gorgia says that as a seminarian he was defamed, discriminated against for his heterosexuality and spinal condition, and harmed financially and emotionally.

Gorgia shared his allegations about the Vice-Rector with LifeSiteNews by email in July. According to the lawsuit, the event described occurred near the beginning of his second school year at NAC, in 2018.

“An initial inappropriate behavior I witnessed on the part of Father Park took place on a Sunday when seminarians were not required to be present on seminary grounds,” he said.  

“On this occasion, I witnessed the Vice-Rector, Father Park, approach a seminarian from behind and initiate 'back massage-type' motions on the seminarian’s body,” he continued. 

“I believed this action by Father Park to be totally inappropriate, and I had a surprised expression on my face which I was aware Father Park noticed.  I became more concerned when this seminarian came to me on his own and told me of physical contact Father Park had made described as ‘hurtful.’  The seminarian’s disclosure alarmed me for reasons such as that there was a dynamic of power such that Father Park had direct control over whether or not this seminarian could become a priest.”

LifeSiteNews was unable at the time to find corroboration for this story, and neither Park nor anyone else at NAC then responded to our requests for comment. 

According to the lawsuit, Gorgia frequently saw Park singling out young men he perceived as “athletic, handsome, young and naïve.” Other seminarians told him that they found his “repetitive social interactions strange.” One told Gorgia that Park had “harassed” him with “repeated uninvited physical contact” and that when he objected, Park “taunted” him until the seminarian left NAC. The seminarian did not want to make a complaint to other NAC authorities “because of their close relationships to one another.” 

On October 17, 2018, Gorgia was summoned to a meeting with the seminary Rector, Fr. Harman, to take place the following day. Harman told Gorgia that Fr. McDonald, his formation advisor, had brought him two criticisms: that Gorgia didn’t like to try new things and that he “presented himself as ‘an old man.’” Puzzled, Gorgia refuted the first claim and, when Harman ridiculed his “old man” posture, he explained that he had scoliosis. In response, Harman sent him to see the NAC psychologist.

In late October, Gorgia was advised that he needed spinal surgery urgently, and he got all the necessary permissions for a six-week medical leave of absence. Nevertheless, Fr. Park appeared “flustered” and “angry” about the arrangements for Gorgia’s return home. Subsequently, it appeared to Gorgia that Park feared that his “departure might present him opportunities […] to disclose what he had witnessed and learned about Park’s inappropriate conduct.” 

The lawsuit alleges also that whereas Gorgia’s professors and fellow seminarians wished him well before his surgery, Harman and Park had been cold to him and “offered no expressions of empathy.” 

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Several documents attest that Gorgia was an excellent student, and he made detailed arrangements so that he would not fall behind in his studies. Despite his back surgery and recuperation, he stayed in constant touch with NAC and emailed his assignments to his professors before they were due.  In late November, Cardinal Dolan wrote to Gorgia, congratulating him on his “strong academic performance.”

However, Dolan wrote quite a different letter to Gorgia in mid-December, informing him that Fr. Harman, NAC’s Rector, had “raised alleged ‘concerns’” and “objected to Gorgia’s return to NAC.” Dolan’s letter listed three charges against Gorgia: that his leave “compromised” his entire second semester, that he had gone about seeking leave incorrectly, and that he had shown “slow development” in his “human formation.” Believing all these accusations to be false, Gorgia asked to meet with Cardinal Dolan. He was, however, rebuffed. 

The lawsuit offers evidence that Gorgia had kept up with his studies, took NAC advice to comply with rules concerning leave, and had very recently been assessed as having “the formational stage required.” It describes how Gorgia was so disappointed by Harman’s and Dolan’s “punitive measures” against him (a work assignment, studies in the U.S.A., and the libellous charges on his permanent record) and so frustrated by Dolan’s refusal to meet him, that he resigned as a seminarian of the Archdiocese of New York. It also details how Gorgia hoped to become a second-year seminarian of the Diocese of Brooklyn until he learned that Brooklyn’s Bishop Nicholas Di Marzio, allegedly, “wanted to appease Dolan by re-subjecting Gorgia to the unjust punitive measures which Dolan had adopted.” 

The lawsuit also offers the evidence of a psychologist at the Cathedral Seminary House of Formation in Douglaston, New York – where Gorgia had studied prior to going to Rome – that the claims made by Harman against Gorgia’s character were untrue. In his letter to Cardinal Dolan, Dr. John Palumbo stated also that Gorgia’s “affective maturity” was “totally appropriate” and that he believed that “it is so important for our Church to continue to form such emotionally healthy young men.” 

Gorgia had served his Catholic community in different roles since boyhood, and many of his friends, including his pastor, and fellow parishioners wrote to Cardinal Dolan to express their concern that he had been ill-treated. Many also wrote to Harman. The lawsuit alleges that Dolan’s responses were dishonest, and that Harman’s were an attack on “Gorgia’s credibility.”

Meanwhile, Gorgia had begun to inform Church officials in Rome and the U.S.A. by post about what he had seen and heard about Park’s conduct with seminarians. He was disappointed by their responses or their lack of response. He also learned of more allegations about Park and also about Harman. The lawsuit presents accusations that both men are, or were, homosexually active and that they discriminate against heterosexuals at NAC. 

“It finally became clear to Gorgia that he was perceived as a threat to having defendants’ secrets revealed,” the lawsuit states. 

The stories brought to Gorgia ranged from allegations that Dolan had covered up clerical sexual misconduct in the past, to a lurid story involving one of the defendants in a homosexual orgy. Gorgia allegedly learned of “credible research” indicating that members of the NAC Board of Governors itself have discriminated against heterosexual seminarians, or retained faculty members who did, or had been accused of covering-up abuse, or had been alleged to have homosexual affairs. 

Fr. Harman, the Rector of NAC, told LifeSiteNews that the college denies the allegations.

“We contest every and all allegations completely and categorically,” he wrote. 

“Regarding your request for comment, the Pontifical North American College was saddened to hear that former seminarian Anthony Gorgia is attempting to use civil courts to sue his former seminary, Church, and bishop,” he continued. 

“We have full confidence in the Rector, staff, and seminarians of the North American College. Seminarians are encouraged to report any allegations of misconduct and assured that such allegations are taken seriously. Unfortunately, Mr. Gorgia never made any allegation of misconduct to NAC leadership during his time as a seminarian. We do anticipate defending ourselves vigorously against Mr. Gorgia with the facts of the matter.”

LifeSiteNews contacted the Archdiocese of New York but has not received a reply.

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  anthony gorgia, catholic, clerical sexual abuse, homosexualty, north american college, rome, timothy dolan

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