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Fordham Apologizes to Alleged Abuse Victim After Years of “Evasions”

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Richard Cerick alleges that, as a thirteen-year-old boy, he was raped by a Fordham employee on an overnight ski trip. (Craig Calefate/The Observer)

By Casey Feldman
News Editor
Published: December 11, 2008

In 1968, when Richard Cerick was 13 and growing up on Long Island, he was invited to go skiing with several of his friends who knew Fordham Prep students. The trip was organized by Rev. Roy A. Drake, S.J., who had previously taught at the Prep and was living in Jesuit housing on Fordham’s Rose Hill campus. The night before they left for the trip, Cerick said, Drake raped and sodomized him in his apartment, a claim the lawyer for Fordham University and Fordham Prep deemed “credible,” Cerick said.

Cerick remained silent until 2005, when he finally informed Fordham University, Fordham Prep and the New York Jesuit organization of the his allegations. At the time of the alleged assault and until 1970, Fordham was legally associated with Fordham Prep.

In addition, in the three years since Cerick made his claims known, none of the institutions involved have been willing to acknowledge their responsibility in the matter or to issue an apology to Cerick.

On Dec. 9, as the Observer was going to press, a Fordham spokesperson quoted Rev. Joseph M. McShane S.J. as saying, “We are deeply sorry for the damage done to Mr. Cerick as a young man and for his pain and suffering. We have been in frequent contact with his attorney and continue to seek a just resolution of his case.”

“It would have been nice for him to say that to me,” Cerick said. “The notion of human compassion and empathy would suggest that you would say to ‘I’m sorry’ someone who [went through what I went through.]” Cerick mentioned a short letter from McShane dated May 16, which the Observer obtained. In the letter, McShane “[acknowledges]” Cerick’s complaints but “respectfully [asks] that you confer with your counsel regarding their discussions about an amicable resolution to this matter.” Cerick said, “They have never said anything closely approximating an apology to me.”

He continued, “What [McShane] doesn’t say in that statement is ‘We believe him’—they’re still not giving any [public] validity to my allegations or accepting [responsibility].”

Mitchell Garabedian, Cerick’s lawyer, confirmed that he has been in contact with attorneys for Fordham University, Fordham Prep and the New York State Province but stated, “It is not a matter of how often we contact each other as much as the substance and productivity of discussions. [Fordham University, Fordham Prep and the New York State Province] are not interested in doing the ‘right thing’ in this matter. The results of discussions have been inadequate and insulting to Mr. Cerick.”

Cerick said, “As bad as what happened to me was, for the past three years, I feel as though they have made it so much worse intentionally by the way they’ve treated me…they made me feel like a piece of trash…[because] they couldn’t care less.”

On Nov. 3, Bob Howe, Fordham’s director of communications, released the first statement on behalf of the University in response to the allegations. The statement reads, in part, “Since October of this year, Richard Cerick has been quoted in the media regarding allegations that he was sexually assaulted in 1968 by a priest of the Society of Jesus. The abuses Mr. Cerick alleges are unconscionable and indefensible. Some of Mr. Cerick’s…statements, however, have blurred the distinction between the University and Fordham Prep, and the University and the New York Province of the Society of Jesus. Fordham Prep and Fordham University have been independent institutions since 1970…the University is not responsible for the actions of his alleged abuser nor for ignoring his claims.”

Garabedian said, “Since the sexual abuse happened on Fordham University’s grounds, Fordham University and its supervisors cannot change their legal responsibility by attempting to distance Fordham University from Fordham Prep.”

Cerick points to Michael Berardino, the attorney who conducted the investigation into his claims, as proof of the connection between the organizations. “Berardino stated in our meeting that he represented Fordham Prep, Fordham University, the New York Jesuit Province and Drake… Also, Thomas DeJulio, Fordham University’s general counsel, appeared at that meeting, and he did not deny that he was representing both the Prep and the University.”

According to the Official Catholic Directory, an annually published book that lists the whereabouts of every American priest, Drake was an employee of Fordham University, as opposed to an employee of Fordham Prep, at the time the alleged sexual abuse occurred in 1968; however, he was generally indexed as having been “assigned” to Fordham Prep from 1965-1971.

Rev. Kenneth Boller, S.J., president of Fordham Prep, said, “From what I understand, Drake was not an employee of Fordham Prep.”  When pressed further, Boller said, “He only worked at Fordham Prep for one semester—from September 1965 to January 1966.”

The Official Catholic Directory listings confirm that Drake was listed as an employee of Fordham Prep during the time period Boller indicated.

However, Terence McKiernan, the president of and a 1971 graduate of Fordham Prep, said that the fact that Drake was “yanked in the middle of the school year” is a “red flag.” “Who’s going to assign a priest for only half a year, then move him? Why was he transferred to the University? Did the Jesuits know that he was bad news back then? It could be that maybe they thought he wouldn’t bother the older college students,” McKiernan said.

McKiernan said that he has no memories of Drake from his time as a Fordham Prep student. He said, “Students a few years older than I remember that his apartment was a place where alcohol was an offer, and you didn’t go there alone.”

Boller said that the Prep does not plan to issue an apology to Cerick. He said he believes it is the responsibility of the New York Province to respond to Cerick’s claims, especially to Cerick’s claim that Drake continued to live on campus even after Fordham Prep, Fordham University and the Province were notified about the alleged abuse in October 2005. A Jesuit newsletter verifies that Drake was still a resident of Murray-Weigel Hall as recently as the fall of 2006. The building is on the Fordham campus and is owned by the New York Province.

When asked to comment on Cerick’s accusations, Rev. Thomas R. Slon, S.J., of the New York Province, would only say that the Province affirms the following portion of the University’s first statement: “Mr. Cerick… fails to report the fact that attorneys for the Province, the Prep and the University have been in frequent communication over the past two years with his attorney, Mitchell Garabedian, in an earnest attempt to resolve this matter…Mr. Cerick’s allegations are painful to contemplate, and while his anger is understandable, the University is not responsible…”

In response, Cerick said, “In their statement, Fordham and the New York Province continue to re-victimize me, as they have done for the past three years. They still completely refuse to [publicly] acknowledge the validity of my allegations (despite deeming them credible), or apologize for the monstrous crimes that one of their priests inflicted on me…”

McKiernan said, “Drake’s alleged…sexual misconduct occurred within a Prep/University relationship, both in a legal and a practical sense.  That the Prep and the University now have a different relationship is not relevant.  In its statement, the University has ‘blurred the distinction” between the legal situation now and the legal situation at the time of the alleged abuse.’”

He continued, “The evasions and callousness of the University’s statement about Mr. Cerick are not consistent with the University’s mission or its Jesuit tradition.”

Cerick said, “The words of Fordham and the New York Province’s statement could not be more evasive and heartless and demonstrate once again that these institutions and their leaders have no shame, humanity or compassion towards their victims.”

“Not one day of my life ever went by where I didn’t think about [the abuse],” said Cerick. “It was mentally and emotionally debilitating.”

Cerick said his initial goal in contacting Fordham was not to go public. “I wanted them to understand and know what happened and I assumed they would want to do the right thing—investigate it, and if they believed me, take Drake away from Fordham and then have him disciplined in the church. My assumption, which, in hindsight, was incorrect, was that they cared. They don’t care.”



3 Responses to “Fordham Apologizes to Alleged Abuse Victim After Years of “Evasions””

  1. Victor melendez on December 4th, 2018 12:07 pm

    As a victim of clergy abuse it baffles and fustrates me when i read, On line of the priests whom had allegations concerning sexual abuse and others whom the allegations against them were found to be credible were able to reside on fordhams rose hill campus.from what i counted id say that 4 priests and i believe that a 5th one were able to reside at a basically a senior care facility by the name of maurry weigel hall on campus.i can not understand how priests whom committed clergy sexual abuse for decades as in my case and are permitted to have access to students on to the priest that.committed sexual abuse on me,he fooled the administration of the university at the time by supposedly helping under privliged kids from nieghborhoods in vincinity of fordhams rose hill campus.this priest had the administration so fooled that his memorial after he passed away was done on the campus. Words can not describe how i felt when i came upon his obituary and it was noted how he would help under privliged kids by voluntering his time to work with us.there were a few of us whom were raised catholic.which us and our parents some of them single mothers whom out all our trust and faith in him. Only to be betrayed by him. My mother puy him on a pedal stool after him coming to my house to meet her. All the while he was grooming me for the soul purpose of commiting his abuse on me an 11yr old at the time.after 3 yes of his abuse i walked away from a baseball gam ewe were playing in which he would be the umpire,and never went i walked out of the campus i felt such a hallow hurt feeling that lasted through out my life.i suffered through out my life by trying to fill that void.i became an addict at the age of 15.i suffered from active addiction a good minority of my life.only when i got in my late yrs and had enough of the awful consequences that go hand in hand with addiction,then was i able to with the help of theraphists work on the issues that i avoided in active addiction.ive been with help of
    God able to state away from that awful life i feel anger and resentful at times because of what i went through at the hands of a trusted priest…of course.however,i continue to go to theraphy which gives me insight as to my feelings,which helps me tremendously.i read how victims are treated after their allegations are made. Its hard enough going through abuse as a kid.,for victims to be treated as if they really don’t matter is for me i day this…i did not ask to be abused at 11 yrs old.i should have not hobe through what i did.grown ups in positions that if they were vigilant in their positions as to priests and kids on campus..alot of us would not have gone through what we feels as if the administration failed us kids.i pray that what i went through another little kid would never go through such a nightmare

  2. Victor melendez on December 16th, 2018 4:20 pm

    As I read the comment I sent in concerning clergy abuse,I wrote that on one of my bad days.these past few months I’ve had to talk about the abuse I experinced at the hands of a priest.going back to those days it’s difficult.these past 3 decades after the abuse,I rarely had to talk about what happened to me.I’ve talked with theraphists concerning this issue,in which they’ve helped me through that ever when I began to read about all the clergy abuse in the news,I began to feel resentment which bought out for institutions apologizing to certain victims I can’t help but feel as if other victims and myself of the priest that harmed us,we deserve the same treatment.letters of emphaty help a little. How ever a letter of apology would help me and the and the other victims feel as if we are worth an apology.I will apologize for the irrational comment I’ve sent.I can only imagine how difficult all this clergy issues must be on those that have to answer for others that have harmed so many victims.I know they are doing all they can to help victims such as ever,please treat all victims the same.we all have suffered the same way. Does not matter where we come from or our race, in
    Gods eyes we are all his children.again:please know that I’m truly sorry for the last comment I sent was written on a day that was a difficult one.

  3. Victor melendez on December 17th, 2018 11:46 am

    Mr cerrick 1st off i need to say,that at times when i feeling fustrated and confused Its difficult for me to express my thoughts and feelings.what I was trying to say as to the comment I sent in a few days ago,is that like yourself I to experinced clergy sexual abuse on fordhams campus.what I find eerie about my experience is that I was harmed dureing the same time frame as yourself1969-1972.i was 11 yrs old at the time.the reason i mentioned errie is because from what ive read as to clergy abuse at that time,there were other minors whom were harmed also by other priests besides the ones that harmed you and myself.what got into these priests at that time that had them commit such crimes is for the priest that harmed me and dozens of other kids,the university has said that no allegations were ever made against him.this is what has me frustrated,being told that in almost 3 decades not one victim besides myself has come forward before he past away in 1997.I also received a letter of emphaty from the university.yes its better than being ignored,how ever I feel as if the university is not being honest and protecting itself from a floodgate of victims coming forward once they realize they were not the only ones that priest had harmed.I felt that way for years.I’m Hopeing that any one who was abused by that priest would come forward,simply because we all do matter.

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