The Marianist order has suspended a former longtime president of Chaminade High School from functioning as a priest after allegations of sexual abuse involving a former student were found to be “credible,” the order said.
The Rev. James Williams, who resigned in 2011 after 12 years as president of the prestigious all-boys Catholic institution in Mineola, has “completely denied” the allegations, but a “vigorous, thorough and comprehensive investigation” conducted by the order “deemed them to be credible,” the group said in a statement posted Friday on Chaminade’s website.
The Marianists said they have contacted the Nassau County district attorney’s office and the Diocese of Rockville Centre about the allegations.
“Father James’ clerical faculties have been suspended and he is not permitted to publicly function as a priest,” The Marianists stated.
The order’s investigation was conducted “with the assistance of professionals who specialize in this area and with the help of our lay-review board,” the group said. “His case will be, as required, submitted to the Holy See for final resolution.”
Williams served as a member of the Chaminade faculty and administration from 1991 to 2012, the order said. He was named president in 1999 and was replaced in 2011, according to the school’s website.
In the letter posted on Chaminade’s website, addressed to “Members of the Chaminade Family,” the order stated, “We believe our actions reflect the solemn promise we have made to ensure the protection of the young men entrusted to us, our highest priority. We will continue to remain vigilant in our efforts to enforce these effective safeguards.”
The Marianists did not respond to requests Saturday seeking details of the alleged abuse.
The Nassau district attorney’s office received a letter from a diocesan attorney dated Feb. 24, 2015, that included “allegations of inappropriate activity” by Williams, according to spokesman Brendan Brosh.
The district attorney’s office immediately started an investigation and spoke to the alleged victim, a former Chaminade student, Brosh said.
While the former student alleged conduct constituting misdemeanor sexual abuse by Williams in 2011, Brosh said the alleged victim, legally an adult at the time, did not wish to pursue criminal charges. In addition, the two-year statute of limitations for misdemeanor sexual abuse had expired in 2013, he said.
Williams, at the time of the letter, was believed to be living in Rome, Brosh said.
Brosh said the district attorney’s office recently received a letter “detailing the same allegations” from a law firm representing Chaminade, dated May 3. When contacted again by investigators, the former student “reiterated that he did not wish to pursue charges and wanted to remain anonymous.”
Anyone who may have information regarding allegations of sexual abuse by Williams is asked to contact the district attorney’s office at 516-571-3800 and ask for the Special Victims Bureau.
Williams could not be reached Saturday, and information on his lawyer wasn’t immediately available.
Chaminade is considered one of the top high schools — private or public — in the region. It boasts a $40 million endowment supported by loyal alumni and attracts students from as far away as New Jersey.
The Diocese of Rockville Centre on Saturday referred questions about Williams to The Marianists.
“The order is responsible for its priests,” diocese spokesman Sean Dolan said.
The order said in its statement that it has “adopted policies consistent with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops particularly with respect to any allegations of misconduct with a minor on the part of any member of the staffs at Marianist schools and retreat houses.”
The U.S. bishops’ policy, known as the Dallas Charter, was adopted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops after the national church sex abuse scandal broke in Boston in early 2002. Under that charter, also dubbed “zero tolerance,” if a credible allegation is made against a priest, he is immediately taken out of ministry until the case is resolved.
Williams announced in August 2011 he was resigning as Chaminade president. He taught at the school until 2012, but it was not immediately clear what he has been doing since he left.
Williams was replaced by Brother Thomas Cleary, who remains the school’s president. The order also operates Kellenberg High School, a coed institution in Uniondale, and St. Martin de Porres Marianist School, a kindergarten-to-eighth-grade school in Uniondale.
With John Hildebrand