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Oblates mum on status of accused priest

The Oblates of the Virgin Mary have not responded to questions about the status of Fr. David Nicgorski, a priest accused of misconduct in spiritual direction, and of sexually assaulting a religious sister.

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Fr. David Nicgorski. Credit: Oblates of the Virgin Mary.

Since The Pillar reported on the priest last week, Nicorgski has been accused of hearing confessions invalidly, in a diocese where he was prohibited from priestly ministry. 

And The Pillar has learned that other allegations against the priest have likely been raised at the Vatican.

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The Pillar reported last week that Fr. David Nicgorski had been prohibited by the Vatican from offering spiritual direction for a five-year period — which began last year — after several women religious accused him of sexually manipulating and coercing them in spiritual direction, and, in one case, accused him of committing sexual assault.

But while the case has sparked widespread discussion among U.S. Catholics, the Oblates of the Virgin Mary have declined to say whether Nicgorski has a ministry assignment or priestly faculties. While Nicgorski’s term as general superior of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary ended in 2022, it is not clear what the priest has done since then.

When the priest was subjected to a Vatican-issued restriction on ministry last year, the Oblates did not publicly announce it, and have not responded to questions about whether the order is monitoring Nicgorski’s activity. 

Since The Pillar’s Jan. 15 report, the priest has been accused of violating a prohibition on ministry in the Archdiocese of Boston, and of hearing confessions without the priestly faculty required for validly absolving sins.

A Boston woman told The Pillar this week that in June 2018, she went to confession at the Oblate-run St. Francis Chapel in Boston’s Prudential Center. 

The woman said she stood in line for the priest hearing confessions in the chapel’s confessional. And she remembered what happened next, she said, because the confession was difficult.

“I remember the experience because it was very negative,” she said, recalling that in her view the priest was aggressive toward her, interrupting her and lecturing her for her sins. 

“I was really distraught after that confession. And I remember that I went to confession with a screen, but he came out of the confessional afterward. I didn’t immediately recognize him,” she said, because he wasn’t usually in Boston.

But the priest was Nicgorski, she said. 

“It was not a special confession of any kind. It was regular confession, his name was on the little plaque. But I definitely was not the only person whose confession he heard that day,” she said.

The woman also said that priest’s demeanor left her traumatized.

“It took me almost a year to go back to confession.”

Religious superiors may confer upon priests the faculty to hear confessions of members of their religious institutes, and others who live in religious houses. But to hear the confessions of others validly, a religious priest like Nicgorski must be given the faculty to do so by some local ordinary.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston said earlier this month that Nicgorski’s priestly faculty to hear confessions validly was withdrawn in late 2017, when complaints were filed against the priest. 

The spokesman confirmed this week that the archdiocese also prohibited the priest from public ministry in 2017 — meaning that if even he had been granted faculties from another diocese, he would not have been free in June 2018 to exercise them licitly in the Archdiocese of Boston, when he was reportedly hearing confessions in the city. 

A priest who hears a sacramental confession without the faculty to absolve incurs an ecclesiastical penalty, and a priest who violates a prohibition against ministry in a particular diocese can also be subject to a penalty.

The Oblates of the Virgin Mary have not responded to questions from The Pillar this week about the priest’s activity in the Boston archdiocese.  

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Concerns about Nicgorski likely were raised to the Vatican before U.S. religious sisters complained of misconduct in 2017.

The Pillar reviewed a Jan 20, 2020 letter about Nicgorski from the Vatican’s Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life, sent to superiors of the Daughters of St. Paul, the religious community which made allegations against the priest in 2017. 

That letter had a protocol number dating from 2015 — suggesting that the Vatican department already had a file open on Nicgorski when the sisters filed their allegations. 

Neither the Vatican press office nor the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life have responded to questions from The Pillar.

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