MR. PAUL T. HORNAK
Former Teacher at St. Gregory’s Academy
I have been asked to recount two incidents involving the Society of St. John which occurred while I was employed as a teacher at St. Gregory’s Academy, Elmhurst, Pa. The first took place in 1998 (I do not recall the month), when members of the Society lived in the west wing of the school. The second, in February 1999, happened on a camping trip I organized for the senior class. At the time, Society priests served as chaplains at St. Gregory’s from their west wing quarters. Father Carlos Urrutigoity was their leader and taught religion classes. What follows is as detailed a description as I am able to provide at a distance of almost four years.
POLICE VISIT, 1998
This incident came to my attention via Jude Huntz, who was head dorm father at St. Gregory’s in 1997-98. As required by the job, he lived in the dorm, and occasionally when we were both free I would join him in his room to talk about matters of mutual interest. The conversation about the police visit took place in this setting. The boys were away, involved in sports or other after-school activities, leaving us to ourselves.
Jude stated that a few nights before, Father Paul Carr, the school chaplain, had telephoned the police after discovering a number of the older boys intoxicated late at night. Apparently Father had determined the boys had been drinking alcohol provided by the Society of St. John during a social event on the Society side of the building. At that time, school officials allowed boys to be up past usual lights-out if in the company of Society priests, who were considered trustworthy. As I recall, this incident involved only a handful of boys, whose names I do not remember.
Jude said the police, on arrival, talked with both Father Carr and members of the Society, warning them that it was illegal to give alcohol to minors. I remember Jude remarking that the Society’s lack of restraint was adversely affecting discipline in the dorm, as all a boy had to do to explain away lateness or some other infraction was to say a Society priest had given him permission.
I recall no further details of the police incident. If I ever knew which police agency was involved, I have forgotten; neither do I remember whether the headmaster, Alan Hicks, was informed. It was, however, common knowledge the Society was allowing boys to drink alcohol on the west side of the building.
CAMPING TRIP, 1999
In February 1999, I planned and led a winter camping expedition along the Appalachian Trail at the Pennsylvania-New Jersey border. The trip was intended to develop leadership and teamwork among the seniors, and to improve class spirit. Although the days selected for the trip were forecast to be fine, it was winter, and the group was faced with the challenge of packing enough to stay warm, dry and well-fed but not so much as to burden the group while hiking. Father Urrutigoity and teacher-dorm fathers Luke Culley and Fred Fraser were the other adult participants.
We spent three days and two nights on the trail, traveling on foot perhaps 50 miles over sometimes rugged and snowy ground. Our camps were hastily pitched, using tarps for shelter, with fires for cooking and warmth. Nighttime temperatures dipped below freezing, but the weather was mild for early February.
On the second night, I heard boys saying that Father Urrutigoity was giving cigars and sacramental wine to those sharing his tent. While this distressed me at the time, I did not act to break up the group in the priest’s tent out of respect for Father’s position, and because I was concerned a display of severity might disrupt the cohesion of the group, affecting our ability to work together the rest of the journey. But I am sure my demeanor gave away my displeasure: I barely spoke the rest of the night.
The following morning, Father and two of the boys involved—Eric Kopec and Sean Farrell—joked openly about what they did, adding that they had shared the same sleeping bag. Again I bit my tongue, but was barely able to contain my outrage. It seemed to me Father considered sleeping with boys to be perfectly natural, and he evidently had succeeded in convincing the two boys there was nothing wrong with it.
When we got back to St. Gregory’s, I told my superior, Alan Hicks, what had happened. He stiffened visibly when he heard about Father sleeping with the boys and said he would talk to him.
Not long after, I found the attached letter [see below] in my school mailbox. Alan, having received a copy, remarked frustratedly that Father had acknowledged the distribution of cigars, but had ignored the more serious issues. I replied I was prepared to forget the incident and move on.
During the school year 1998-1999 I was a resident in the dorm, so I often heard snatches of conversation between the boys that left me in no doubt that drinking, smoking and bed-sharing were standard occurrences. I complained openly about Society behavior to any who would listen, but nobody seemed to care. In April or May I gave notice that I would not be returning to St. Gregory’s in the fall.
In a conversation with Father Devillers, head of the Fraternity of St. Peter, shortly before I left the school in late spring, I detailed my reasons for resigning, including a plain statement that I believed the Society of St. John had involved St. Gregory’s boys in near-homosexual activity. He took the allegation calmly, saying the Society would learn the hard way once its members left the protected confines of the Fraternity property at Elmhurst and began to fend for themselves. He expressed the view that some of the techniques the Society employed to win the favor of the boys were perhaps intended to make them receptive to God’s word. Though I thought the idea preposterous I kept silent.
Signed by Mr. Paul T. Hornak
Sworn to before me this
18th day of February, 2002
Signed by Nancy Datoush
Notary Public in the State of New York
LETTER FROM FR. CARLOS URRUTIGOITY TO MR. PAUL HORNAK
February 18, 1999
Just a few words regarding the camp trip this past weekend. First, let me express my satisfaction with and admiration for the good work and organization you put into this trip. In particular, I was impressed with the way you handled giving responsibility to the boys in areas like food, itinerary and timing, etc.
Second, I would like to apologize for and explain my mind in a matter that came to my attention recently. At the request of some of the boys, I have given them some cigars for the trip. To use a distinction that we learn in Canon Law, I did not think this to be directly “against the law,” but “beyond the law” of the school. I mean that because this camping trip was an extraordinary activity whose end was the fostering of good camaraderie, the normal prohibition for smoking did not hold as in the school. I thought that Mr. Hicks would not mind this, and that is why I got them those cigars. In no way did I intend to impose on you or the faculty, nor did I intend to put you in a difficult position. The very candidness with which this took place explains, I believe, my attitude, i.e. I did not want it to be a “hidden” or “against the faculty” affair. In fact, I did not think it to be an affair at all. I can see now that I was mistaken, and I apologize for this.
In any case, I thought that the trip was very enjoyable and well planned. Again, sorry for any inconvenience I might have caused.
In Caritate Christi, Radicati et Fundati (Eph. 3:17)
Father Carlos R. M. Urrutigoity
cc: Mr. Alan Hicks, Mr. Howard Clark