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NEW YORK (ChurchMilitant.com) - Accounts from sex abuse victims reveal Fordham University has been a cushy hideaway for clerical sex abusers for more than half a century.
In 2018, Richard Windmann, Ph.D., learned that his childhood abuser, Rev. Cornelius Carr, S.J., resided at Murray-Weigel Hall, the Jesuit nursing home on Fordham's Rose Hill campus. Since that news became public, Dr. Windmann, who serves as president of Survivors of Childhood Sex Abuse, says he's been made aware of many pedophile priests ending up at Fordham University.
"It seems, based on the volume of pedophile priests that were housed there, that it was a dumping ground for priests that they couldn't stop from molesting children," Windmann stated.
Windmann admits that he doesn't have an exact number of pedophile priests who've been shuffled to Fordham (one of the oldest Jesuit universities in the United States), but each one represents countless victims.
Windmann's own abuser had approximately 50 sexual-misconduct-related lawsuits brought against him, stemming from his time as a theology teacher at a Jesuit high school in New Orleans. Windmann was just 12 years old when he was playing basketball at the school and was raped by the school janitor. Windmann claims that Fr. Carr walked in while he was being sodomized, but instead of rescuing the boy, the priest began masturbating.
It took years for Windmann, who is now in his 50s with a family of his own, to recount that story, but he feels strongly that he must serve as an advocate for others, which involves sharing his personal account of becoming a sex abuse survivor.
Once it came to light that Fordham was housing Carr, an accused sex offender who is now deceased, the university's administration stated that they had no knowledge of Carr's history. But they did issue an apology and told Windmann they believed his story. Windmann says he felt Fordham's words were meaningful and genuine.
Fordham University has a decades-long history of housing clerical sex offenders. The school's journal of record, The Fordham Ram, previously reported on another Murray-Weigel Hall sex offender resident, Rev. Eugene O'Brien. According to the journal, O'Brien was principal and president of Fordham Prep in the early '70s when he allegedly molested a student. The article states the accuser filed a lawsuit that was settled by Fordham in 1997 for $25,000.
In a separate case, the Ram reports that a friend of a Fordham Prep student claimed that he was raped by Rev. Roy Drake, S.J., a former science teacher at Fordham Prep in the late 1960s. He was also a resident of Murray-Weigel Hall.
At some point, it appears the administration at Fordham recognized it had a problem and launched the "Taking Responsibility: Jesuit Educational Institutions Confront the Causes and Legacy of Clergy Sexual Abuse" project. The project lasted from June 2020 to December 2022. Its aim "was to fund research both at Fordham and at other Jesuit institutions that would explore the relationship between the structures of the Roman Catholic Church (including though not limited to the structures of Jesuit institutions) and the phenomena of clergy sexual abuse and its systematic concealment."
Findings of the project were released last month and found that among Jesuits "there is an emphasis on being patient and merciful that allows for inferior performance and outright misbehavior." Principal investigator C. Colt Anderson, a professor of Christian spirituality at Fordham, went on to say in the report, "As a member of a religious order told us, there is confusion between what is simply sinful and what is criminal."
Dr. Windmann isn't certain but acknowledges it's possible that his story of abuse and the Church's cover-up could have sparked the study conducted by Fordham.
In a statement that accompanied the study's results, Fordham University President Tania Tetlow lamented that people want to deny the reality that child sexual abuse remains rampant in institutions entrusted with children: "We have a deep-seated desire to reject unimaginable horror, especially when people we have once trusted are accused. But the result is the failure to protect our children," she remarked.
Tetlow added, "Each of us has failed a moral lesson at some point; each of us has heard the cock crow three times. It is time to wake up and be vigilant."
Dr. Windmann intends to release an autobiography called "The Crucible" in the near future, detailing his abuse and advocacy for sex abuse survivors, as well as the miraculous source of strength he found to remain in the Catholic Church, which he says could be doing so much more to end centuries-old abuse.