After conducting basic research on the Board of Trustees, we stumbled upon an allegation of sexual abuse against a member of the University’s Board of Trustees, Reverend Peter G. Gori O.S.A., JCD. Last April, Rev. Gori was accused of sexual abuse against a minor by a man over allegations of abuse from the late 1980s and early 1990s. The man alleged that the abuse occurred when he was ten years old. Following the reports of this abuse, the Archdiocese of Boston announced that Gori was placed on administrative leave at his Andover Church.
“The Archdiocese immediately informed law enforcement as well as forwarded the matter to his religious provincial, the Augustinian Order of St. Thomas of Villanova,” the Archdiocese of Boston said in a statement. “The Augustinian Province will be responsible for investigating the case involving Fr. Gori,” the statement continued.
After Gori’s dismissal, he wrote a letter to his parishioners in which he denied the allegation. “I assure you, as I assured the provincial, the accusation is false,” Gori wrote. “I cannot live in the parish rectory, and I cannot publicly celebrate the sacraments without special permission. So, you will not be seeing me for a while, and I appreciate your prayerful support.”
Earlier this year, additional allegations of verbal abuse were also levied against Gori from a former member of his parish from incidents that had allegedly occurred over 25 years ago. In response to the allegation of verbal abuse, he issued a statement to the Boston Globe saying that he is “forbidden to comment on any matters pertaining to any specific annulment cases” but insisted that be had “acted with professional skill, integrity and compassion at all times.”
Gori has sat on the Board of Trustees at Villanova since 2013. When asked for comment on the matter, the University provided The Villanovan with the following statement:
“This past spring, the University was made aware of allegations made against Father Peter Gori, an Augustinian priest and member of our Board of Trustees. The Augustinian Order directed that an independent investigation be conducted regarding the allegations. While that investigation was proceeding, Fr. Gori was on leave from the Board. The investigation was recently concluded, and the Augustinian Order informed us that the investigation found the complaint to be unfounded and exonerated Fr. Gori, who has now returned to the Board of Trustees.”
Along with this information, the University provided The Villanovan with a contact from the Augustinian Order who had familiarity with the investigation. Upon speaking with Father Michael Di Gregorio, O.S.A., The Villanovan learned that the Augustinian Order enlisted an independent investigation to generate a report on the credibility of the accusation and then presented the report to a “group of laypeople” in Washington, D.C. to confirm or deny the report. We were unable to glean from the conversation whether or not the accuser of Rev. Gori had participated in the investigation, nor the degree of separation for this independent investigation.
Following the conversation with the Fr. Di Gregorio of the Augustinian Order, we were left perplexed by the University’s neglect to mention the ongoing investigation of Rev. Gori, given the public nature of the accusation made against him. After reaching out for comment, the University provided us with the following statement:
“This allegation arose in Massachusetts and was unrelated to Villanova University. As a matter of policy, the University does not comment on accusations, as this would not be appropriate. University officials were aware of the allegations and, during the investigation, Fr. Gori was not present at Villanova. As we would with any allegation, we allowed time for the matter to be investigated. After the investigation concluded and found the complaint to be unfounded, Fr. Gori returned to his role on the Board of Trustees.”
We were unsure what to make of the mention of the origin of the state of the allegation. Whether it happened in Bryn Mawr or Burbank is irrelevant to the seriousness of the allegation. Given the public nature of the accusation, it would have been reasonable for the University to acknowledge the accusation and provide the Villanova community with an update on the initiation of an investigation back in April.
The past two decades have seen thousands of accusations of sexual misconduct made against high ranking Catholic officials. Given this damning trend, the Catholic Church, along with the University, should be extremely transparent when accusations do arise. Obviously, Rev. Gori should not be found guilty by association, but the University should be up front when these situations do arise. Unfortunately, the nature of such allegations is always very murky, but all available information should be disseminated to avoid causing more confusion, especially given the importance of the Board of Trustees in deciding University strategy.