BOSTON (CBS) – The rector of St. John’s Seminary in Brighton has been placed on leave during an independent investigation into claims by two former seminarians of alleged sexual misconduct there.

In a statement, Cardinal Seán O’Malley said the two former seminarians of St. John’s Seminary recently posted allegations on social media sites, including the Archdiocese’s Facebook page, of their experiences and observations while at the seminary.

The former seminarians claim that “they witnessed and experienced activities which are directly contrary to the moral standards and requirements of formation for the Catholic priesthood,” O’Malley said.

omalley St. Johns Seminary Shakeup Amid Probe Into Sexual Misconduct Claims

Cardinal Sean O’Malley has launched a probe into claims by former seminarians regarding conduct at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)

O’Malley did not elaborate on the claims by the seminarians or the alleged activities they witnessed or experienced.

“At this time I am not able to verify or disprove these allegations,” O’Malley said. “As Archbishop of Boston, with responsibility for the integrity of the seminary and its compliance with the Church’s Program for Priestly Formation, I am committed to immediate action to address these serious matters.”

garabedian St. Johns Seminary Shakeup Amid Probe Into Sexual Misconduct Claims

Mitchell Garabedian is representing a former St. John’s seminarian. (Image credit: CBS News)

In a statement late Friday afternoon, Attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who is representing a former St. John’s seminarian, slammed the Archdiocese for “continuing to practice the cover up of sexual abuse.”

“The recent reporting of sexual abuse at St. John’s Seminary is further evidence that the Archdiocese of Boston is continuing to practice the cover up of sexual abuse and will not practice transparency to help sexual abuse victims heal,” said Garabedian, who previously represented several victims in the church sex abuse scandal. “The Archdiocese of Boston should publically release all records and information relative to sexual abuse at St. John’s Seminary so that sexual abuse victims can try to heal.”

“The creation of an investigatory board or team should have taken place decades ago,” Garabedian said. “Given the horrible history of sexual abuse within the Archdiocese of Boston it should come as no surprise that sexual abuse has taken place at St. John’s Seminary.”

st johns seminary St. Johns Seminary Shakeup Amid Probe Into Sexual Misconduct Claims

St. John’s Seminary in Brighton. (WBZ-TV)

O’Malley said he asked Msgr. James P. Moroney, rector of St. John’s, to go on sabbatical leave for the fall semester, effective immediately so “that there can be a fully independent inquiry regarding these matters.”

O’Malley said he has appointed The Rev. Stephen Salocks, professor of sacred scripture, to serve as interim rector at St. John’s.

A group that includes religious clergy, a college president, and a Boston lawyer “will oversee an inquiry into the allegations made this week, the culture of the seminary regarding the personal standards expected and required of candidates for the priesthood, and any seminary issues of sexual harassment or other forms of intimidation or discrimination,” O’Malley said.

That group includes the Most Rev. Mark O’Connell, Auxiliary Bishop of Boston; Assumption College President Francisco Cesareo, who also serves as president of the USCCB National Review Board, which advises the USCCB on matters of child and youth protection policies and practices; Boston attorney Kimberly Jones and Attorney Mark Dunderdale, director of the Archdiocesan Office of Professional Standards and Oversight.

O’Malley said he has directed the group, “with due seriousness of their assignment,” to submit their findings to him “as soon as possible,” along with “recommendations to assure appropriate standards of professional behavior in compliance with Church teaching at all levels of seminary life.”

“The allegations made this week are a source of serious concern to me as Archbishop of Boston,” O’Malley said. “The ministry of the Catholic priesthood requires a foundation of trust with the people of the Church and the wider community in which our priests serve. I am determined that all our seminaries meet that standard of trust and provide the formation necessary for priests to live a demanding vocation of service in our contemporary society.”

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