Rome, Italy, Feb 6, 2021 / 12:31 pm (CNA).- The American seminary in Rome has said it will defend itself “vigorously” against a lawsuit filed by a former student who says he was blocked from continuing his studies there after he had witnessed inappropriate homosexual contact on the part of the vice rector.
The North American College (NAC), its Rector Fr. Peter Harman, Vice Rector Fr. Adam Park, and faculty member Fr. John McDonald were named as defendants in a Feb. 3 lawsuit filed in Richmond County, New York, by Anthony J. Gorgia.
Gorgia, a former seminarian for the Archdiocese of New York, began studies at the NAC in the summer of 2017. In the 58-page lawsuit, he claims to have witnessed and disapproved of Park initiating inappropriate physical contact with another seminarian.
According to the lawsuit, Gorgia left the NAC for a period during the first semester of his second year of formation to undergo an operation in his home diocese.
Gorgia accuses Harman, Park, and McDonald of creating “false accusations” about him to prevent his return to the seminary in 2018. Gorgia claims this was done because of his heterosexual orientation and the defendants’ desire “to protect themselves from exposure of their predatory homosexuality at the NAC.”
The lawsuit states that Gorgia submitted a letter of resignation as a seminarian of the archdiocese of New York in January 2019, “under duress.”
Gorgia is seeking $125 million in damages in civil court on 12 causes of action, including defamation, wrongful discharge, sexual harassment, emotional distress, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and interference with prospective economic advantage.
His lawsuit also warns of ongoing homosexual conduct by priests and at least one unnamed bishop affiliated with the college.
A spokesman for the North American College said in a statement to CNA Feb. 4 that the school was “saddened” by the news of the lawsuit and anticipates defending itself against Gorgia “with the facts of the matter.”
“We have full confidence in the Rector, staff, and seminarians of the North American College,” the spokesman said.
The Archdiocese of New York and its archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan were also named in the suit, along with 25 persons “whose identities are not yet known.”
The suit accuses Cardinal Dolan of being complicit in the “nefarious plan” of Park, Harman, and McDonald, by accepting Harman’s directive that Gorgia leave the NAC and fulfill a parish assignment before determining if he could return to the NAC or to the archdiocesan seminary.
Joseph Zwilling, director of Communications for the Archdiocese of New York, said in a statement to CNA Feb. 4 that “the claims in this case against the Archdiocese of New York and Cardinal Dolan are absurd and have no basis in fact or law. We are prepared to defend against it, and will seek its dismissal in court.”
The NAC said in its statement that “seminarians are encouraged to report any allegations of misconduct and assured that such allegations are taken seriously.”
It added that, “unfortunately, Mr. Gorgia never made any allegation of misconduct to NAC leadership during his time as a seminarian.”
In his lawsuit, Georgia says he was unaware of the motives of Park, Harman, and the other defendants at the time the events took place.
The suit alleges that the motivations became clear to Gorgia “much later, upon receiving credible information” about continued alleged homosexual activity by Harman and Park and other “active homosexuality” at the seminary.
Gorgia is the organizer of a GoFundMe page entitled “Save Our Seminarians Fund,” requesting donations up to a goal of $250,000. In six months he has received donations of more than $25,000.
In a video posted seven months ago to YouTube, and embedded in the donation page’s description, Gorgia can be seen saying “those to be held accountable have massive financial resources only bolstered by their many appeals for donations. For this reason, I ask your support that will allow my legal case to move forward and uphold my efforts to raise awareness so that no seminarian should have to suffer as I have.”