BOSTON, Mass. —Cardinal Séan O’Malley has announced a major investigation into St. John’s Seminary in the Archdiocese of Boston, following allegations made by two former seminarians. 

The cardinal also announced that the rector of the seminary, Msgr. James Moroney, had been placed on immediate leave to allow for a “fully independent inquiry.”

The announcement was made by Cardinal O’Malley on Friday afternoon, Aug. 10.

In a prepared statement, the cardinal said that he had learned of the allegations earlier this week, after posts by the former seminarians appeared on social media. The Archdiocese has not confirmed the exact nature of the allegations.

“Earlier this week I was informed that two former seminarians of St. John’s Seminary in the Archdiocese of Boston had posted allegations on social media sites including the Archdiocese’s Facebook page that during their time at the seminary they witnessed and experienced activities which are directly contrary to the moral standards and requirements of formation for the Catholic priesthood,” O'Malley said.

The cardinal, who also serves as the President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, stressed that he has not yet been able to either prove or disprove the allegations, but that the matter was being treated with the utmost seriousness.

“As Archbishop of Boston, with responsibility for the integrity of the seminary and its compliance with the Church's Program for Priestly Formation, I am committed to immediate action to address these serious matters.”

In addition to announcing Msgr. Moroney’s “sabbatical,” Cardinal O’Malley said that he has appointed Father Stephen E. Salocks to serve as interim rector of St. John’s. Father Salocks currently serves as a professor at the seminary.

The investigation into the allegations is being led by Bishop Mark O'Connell, Auxiliary Bishop of Boston, Dr. Francisco Cesareo, president of Assumption College and president of the USCCB National Review Board, which advises the USCCB on matters of child and youth protection policies and practices, and Ms. Kimberly Jones, CEO of Athena Legal Strategies Group.

Laying out the remit of the inquiry, O’Malley said he had directed them to examine “the allegations made this week, the culture of the seminary regarding the personal standards expected and required of candidates for the priesthood, and any seminary issues of sexual harassment or other forms of intimidation or discrimination.”

The inquiry will be staffed by Mark Dunderdale, the director of the Archdiocesan Office of Professional Standards and Oversight.

The cardinal said he had instructed the inquiry team to report back to him “as soon as possible” with their findings and a set of recommendations ensuring proper standards of behavior in accord with Church teaching at all levels of seminary life.

“The allegations made this week are a source of serious concern to me as Archbishop of Boston,” O’Malley said. 

“The ministry of the Catholic priesthood requires a foundation of trust with the people of the Church and the wider community in which our priests serve. I am determined that all our seminaries meet that standard of trust and provide the formation necessary for priests to live a demanding vocation of service in our contemporary society.”