Ousted seminary teacher suspended

The Reporter, Wisconsin/October 1, 2009

A former teacher at St. Lawrence Seminary named in a 1993 sexual abuse case has been suspended from his teaching position at a school in Hawaii.

The forced leave came after school officials were made aware that Thomas J. Gardipee, 52, had been banned from teaching or ministry with minors because of alleged sexual misconduct with students at the Mount Calvary seminary.

The Capuchin Province of St. Joseph removed Gardipee, a Capuchin friar, from his position as athletic director and teacher in 1992, according to stories published in The Reporter.

Gardipee left the religious order in 2001, and a year later was hired by Kamehameha Schools in Hawaii, where he taught world history to high school students, Honolulu's Star-Bulletin reported.

A national group known as SNAP - Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests - has been publicly protesting Gardipee's employment, stating he should not be working with children.


Allegations against Gardipee first came to light in a 1992 Milwaukee Journal investigation series. Six capuchin priests and brothers were believed to have sexually abused at least 14 former students.

Investigators at the time said the incidents occurred over a 24-year period and that administrators of St. Lawrence Seminary took no action during the 1970s, when the alleged offenses occurred, and never notified the boys' parents, according to stories in The Reporter.

Charges of sexual misconduct against Gardipee and John L. Raniszewski were eventually dismissed. Fond du Lac Circuit Court Judge Peter Grimm said at the time that although Gardipee committed a lewd and lascivious act (masturbating) in front of a student, he could not be charged because it was a misdemeanor and the three-year statute of limitations had expired.

SNAP Midwest Director Peter Isley, a former St. Lawrence student who stated that he was sexually abused by a friar, said the group is hoping an investigation will determine how someone with Gardipee's history and licensing denial in Wisconsin could end up in a teaching position in Hawaii.

"Either Gardipee was hired with the knowledge of his history and they chose to ignore it or very little, if any, due diligence was conducted during the hiring process," Isley said.


Isley in 1993 started the first treatment facility in the nation for clergy abuse survivors at Rogers Hospital in Oconomowoc. He said at the time that he was in contact with a core group of 50 abuse survivors but believed there were hundreds of young men who had been abused at St. Lawrence.

During the court hearings, the attorney for the two defendants, Gerald Boyle, sought a gag order for Isley, who was a prominent spokesperson for the victims.

Gardipee's name is listed in the database at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction as "license denied."

In a 1993 civil suit settled out of court, a 21-year-old St. Lawrence alumnus accused Gardipee of sexually abusing, harassing and stalking him over a period of three years.

Gardipee had spent his remaining years with the Capuchins making and selling pottery, John Celichowski, provincial minister of the Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order told the Star-Bulletin.

In a letter to Kamehameha School President Michael Chun, SNAP wrote, "Gardipee has left a legacy of pain and struggle here in Wisconsin for those who were impacted by his misconduct.

"Those survivors who came forward in the 1990s did so with enormous courage out of a concern that no other youngsters be harmed by him. But they also did so out of concern for Gardipee himself, who was offered, with absolutely no cost to him, a lifetime of financial security, assistance and help by his Capuchin brothers.

"All he needed to do was agree to put the legitimate concerns of youngsters and his superiors over his own sense that he was entitled, apparently, to teach children. No one is entitled to that privilege."

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