3 priests with Syracuse ties among 50 in province with credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor

By Renée K. Gadoua | Contributing writer

Three Jesuit priests who ministered at Syracuse’s Christ the King Retreat House have credible allegations of sexual abuse of minors against them, according to a list released Tuesday by the USA Northeast Province of the Society of Jesus.

Jesuit Fathers Peter Conroy and Roy Drake worked at the retreat house in the 1980s and 1990s; Father Raymond Fullam worked there 1969 to 1972. Father Drake also held an administrative job at Le Moyne College 1978 to 1979 and 1985 to 1993. Drake and Fullam are deceased; Conroy was permanently removed from ministry in 2002.

Their names were among those of 50 Jesuits who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse dating to 1950.

In addition, Le Moyne College said Tuesday it “permanently removed into retirement” Jesuit Father James F. O’Brien after “a credible claim from one of our alumni … involving historical allegations of sexual assault of a Le Moyne College student more than 20 years ago.” O’Brien, who taught biology at Le Moyne for 26 years, died in 2005 at age 71.    

Le Moyne also noted that two priests of the Diocese of Syracuse previously credibly accused of abuse of minors taught at Le Moyne. Father John P. Wagner was an adjunct instructor 1975 to 1990 and in 1993; he has been permanently removed from ministry. Father Francis J. Furfaro (1916-2010) was an adjunct faculty member in 1948.

The Northeast Province is the last of the five U.S. Jesuit regions to make public lists of accused clergy. The Syracuse Diocese on Dec. 3 released a list of 57 priests with credible allegations of child sexual abuse against them.

The Jesuit list “notes criminal and sinful failures in the pastoral care of children,” Jesuit Father John J. Cecero, provincial for the Northeast Province wrote. The order made public the list “hoping to contribute to healing from the pain and anger caused by clergy sex abuse and the lack of accountability and transparency on the part of church leadership.”

Le Moyne College President Linda LeMura echoed that sentiment in a letter published on the college’s website and emailed to alumni Tuesday morning. “We at Le Moyne recognize the importance of these public disclosures, and we are profoundly disturbed by the circumstances they suggest and deeply saddened by this pain and suffering,” she wrote.

The college has “no knowledge of any allegations against” Drake, Wagner, or Furfaro involving any member of the Le Moyne community, LeMura said in her letter. “There is no person presently associated with Le Moyne College on any of these lists and we have not received allegations of sexual abuse against any current faculty or staff member, whether Jesuit or lay,” she wrote.

The diocese is unaware of allegations against any priest other than Father O’Brien that took place at Le Moyne or involved Le Moyne students, said Danielle Cummings, chancellor and director of communications.

Before coming to Le Moyne in 1978, Drake was assigned to McQuaid Jesuit in Rochester and Fordham Prep and Fordham University in New York, according to the province’s report. He worked at John Carroll University in Cleveland 1980 to 1984 before returning to Syracuse. He was removed from ministry in 2003 after an investigation found credible allegations of abuse of a minor. The incidents occurred in 1973 and 1968 and were reported in 2003 and 2006. Drake was accused of raping a teenage male in 1968, according to a 2008 New York Times story. Drake died in 2008.

In addition to his assignment in Syracuse, Conroy worked at Canisius High School in Buffalo, Fordham, and Canisius College. He remains a Jesuit but was permanently removed from ministry in 2002 after admitting to the allegations, which occurred in 1972.

As of about 2003, Jesuits removed from ministry are placed under a safety plan. “They are in a community with no access to places like a parish, school, or retreat house,” said Mike Gabriele, director of communications for the Northeast Jesuits.

Gabriele would not say where Conroy lives, but said he has been placed under a safety plan.

Under the plan, the accused Jesuit has limited access to visitors and transportation, Gabriele said. “A lot of these cases cannot be criminally investigated,” he said, referring to the statute of limitations. “We almost prefer they stay in the community so we can monitor them.”

Fullam’s assignments included stints at Xavier High School in New York, Canisius High School, St. Peter’s Church in New Jersey, and St. Francis Xavier Church in New York. He served at Manresea Retreat House on Staten Island before working at Christ the King from 1969 to 1972. After leaving Syracuse, he worked at Canisius High School and at the Martyrs Shrine in Auriesville.

He died in 1987. Allegations were made in 2009 for incidents in 1954 and 1965.  

Gabriele said he does not know where Drake and Fullam are buried.

It’s unclear what Drake, Conroy, or Fullam did at Christ the King Retreat House or if they lived there. The Jesuits owned the retreat center at 500 Brookford Road from 1944 to 1994, when they transferred it to the diocese.

O’Brien was a native of Rochester, according to an obituary in the Catholic Courier. Before coming to Le Moyne, he taught at Canisius High School. After leaving Le Moyne, he worked in The Jesuit Bureau of Missions and The Xavier Society for the Blind, according to the obituary. He is buried at the North American Martyrs Shrine in Auriesville.

Joe Della Posta, director of communications at Le Moyne, would not say if O’Brien’s victim was a man or woman or if the college or Jesuits have provided counseling or compensation. He did not know if O’Brien lived in a student residence hall or the Jesuit residence. He would not say when the incident occurred or when O’Brien left Le Moyne.

Jesuit Father Donald Kirby, rector of Le Moyne’s Jesuit community and a religious studies professor for more than 40 years, referred all questions to the Jesuit province.

None of the Northeast Province Jesuits who abused a minor while a Jesuit remain in active ministry, and the last known credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by a Jesuit happened in 1996, according to the province. The region includes the former New York, Buffalo, and New England Provinces.

More than 3,500 Jesuits have belonged to the Northeast Province or its predecessors since 1950. About 350 Jesuits now comprise the province, Gabriele said.

“The release of these names is the right and moral thing to do. It is a necessary step in the process of confession and reconciliation that must happen in the church,” Jesuit Father James J. Martin, editor at large at national Catholic magazine America, said in a series of tweets posted as the list was released.

“This is also my home province and this list fills me with both shame and anger,” tweeted Father Martin, who delivered Le Moyne’s 2011 commencement address and received an honorary degree from the college. “Though I had no authority over any of these men, the crimes and sins of my brother Jesuits shame and anger me intensely.”

Renée K. Gadoua, a freelance writer and editor, is a graduate of Le Moyne College. Follow her on Twitter @ReneeKGadoua.

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