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Stephen Parisi, dean of his class of seminarians in the Buffalo Diocese, went to seminary officials together with another of his classmates about a recent party in a parish rectory. They said that priests were directing obscene comments to the seminarians at the party, discussing graphic photos and joking about professors allegedly swapping A's for sex. As a result, Parisi later came under fire from priests for speaking out about their colleagues' inappropriate behavior and was even told to watch his back. Parisi was not the only one who experienced this type of inconvenience. Together with Matthew Bojanowski he made explosive news recently after alleging that they were bullied for speaking out.
According to The Washington Post, Parisi and Bojanowski, who was academic chairman of the class, have been bullied by superiors, grilled by their academic dean under police-like interrogation and then shunned by many of their fellow seminarians after going public with sexual harassment complaints about those up the chain of command. Bojanowski and Parisi both left the seminary after they experienced bullying and shunning, but they are an example of those who could not stay silent. Many Catholics are becoming aware that the Catholic Church is unwilling to respond frankly and transparently to recently revealed cases of sexual mistreatment of seminarians and priests.
“My conscience bothered me. If it meant being thrown out, so be it,” said Parisi, as The Washington Post reports. Parisi, who joined the seminary in 2018 after 25 years as a member of a Catholic religious order, caring for the sick and dying, thought he knew the church well when he entered the seminary. Now living with his parents and unemployed, he has received hate mail, and says priests in his hometown won’t acknowledge him. His faith in the institution has been “shattered,” he said. “That’s what you get for exposing the truth.”
If there is anything good in all of this, then it is the fact that Parisi and Bojanowski are among a small but growing number of Catholic priests and seminarians who spoke to someone outside the church complaining about their superiors. While this type of dissent is still rare in an institution which is strictly conservative and requires vows of obedience, it is good that there are those who are breaking the silence. For example, more than half a dozen priests and former seminarians were the key whistleblowers in the recent fall of Bishop Michael J. Bransfield. It seems that the students now are more aware of Church-related scandals than ever before and that they are ready to react.