Canons Regular of the Immaculate Conception
Novices kicked out after they complained the novice master
- Encouraged excessive drinking. Kept telling them, ‘Come on. Let’s go get shit-faced.”
- Made them drink his homemade “Martonis”.
- Abused them. Touched their inner thighs and buttocks. Caressed their heads. Asked for neck and foot massages.
- Blackmailed and manipulated them
- Fiddled the books. “If we got US $100, he would tell us to write $ 10.”
Internal investigation cleared the novice master of wrongdoing.
Superior General in Rome denies allegations
Six novices have been kicked out, dumped, stabbed in the back, whatever from the novitiate of a small religious order, just weeks after they reported that their novice master abused several of them without their consent, encouraged excessive drinking, fiddled the books and engaged in manipulation and other conduct which caused them “serious harm.”
Their dismissal came after an internal investigation cleared the novice master of wrongdoing.
The former novices, who were with the Canons Regular of the Immaculate Conception, a religious congregation of priests with houses in Europe, South America, and California, where the congregation serves two parishes.
They were based in the novitiate in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, in which the novitiate was located. They say the Archdiocese should have done more to assist them when they alleged misconduct.
The novices joined the Canons Regular of the Immaculate Conception as postulants in May 2020. They were current and former seminarians, who had initially discerned forming a religious community together.
But when they got there, they discovered that the novice master “wanted to celebrate every single night. He made these really big, really strong drinks he called ‘martonis. And it was expected that we had to drink the whole thing, or he’d get really anxious, and push us to drink them, and that happened until everyone was really drunk. There was no having a conversation with him. He would get mad if we wouldn’t drink. So it felt like we had to, or he would be angry with us.”
One novice also spoke of fiddling the books.
“Father would ask me to do the books on Masses —- me and [another novice] would do it every so often. But Father was like ‘If a Mass intention comes in, you just write that it's $10.’ But I'm like “Father, that's $100!’ He’d tell me ‘Just write $10. It made my skin crawl’
Another one spoke of his habit of caressing his head and shoulders.
“Unfortunately, where I sat in the kind of communal room - where the TV was - I sat next to him on his right. And so he would want to rub my shoulder while I sat there. And then every time he would go into the chapel, he would always rub my head, like a dog. And that really made me uncomfortable, ‘cause I've never experienced a priest to do this. And he’s my superior - I would never cross this boundary, never, ever.”
Another novice said, “He would smack me on the butt, sometimes with his habit belt. And when he would drink a lot and his inhibitions would start to go down and all that…when I would get up to go to the kitchen or to the bathroom or whatever, his eyes would kind of linger on me as I would walk away. And it was uncomfortable. It was just weird.”
Yet another talked of the time the novice master “grabbed at my crotch.”
“He was sitting next to me on the couch, and he started tickling my knee. And then he moved his hand up my leg, up my thigh, and he was touching my inner thigh toward my crotch. And so I just grabbed his arm and I knocked him off the couch. And then he just got up and laughed it off.”
In a statement, the Canons Regular of the Immaculate Conception claimed that while one of the men was actually dismissed, the rest “voluntarily chose to leave the community. With no other novices discerning priesthood for the order, the novitiate ended.”
The novices say that is untrue.
“We didn’t sign anything, we didn’t leave the novitiate, we just went to a safer place and asked for help,” said one of them.
Other former novices agreed. None of them said they intended to leave their community.