COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (KBTX)- A Catholic priest with local ties is currently under investigation following reports of misconduct in which he is accused of breaching both physical and emotional boundaries with several adult women and at least one female youth.
Father Michael Sullivan, a member of the Legionaries of Christ, has admitted to violating the organization's "Christ Code of Conduct" on more than one occasion beginning in 2013, according to an internal memo obtained by News 3's Rusty Surette.
The Legionaries of Christ is a Roman Catholic congregation of priests and men studying for the priesthood.
Fr. Sullivan has worked with St. Mary's Catholic Center in College Station since 2009 and participated in confessional, spiritual direction, and retreats, according to a social media post by the church.
It's unclear if his accusers are members of the St. Mary's congregation.
Sullivan left St. Mary's on November 2 after being reassigned, but the organization says the move had nothing to do with the accusations and was planned prior to the most recent incident.
"Father Sullivan had been recently assigned to North Carolina State University as an assistant chaplain but had not yet moved there. The decision to assign him there was made prior to learning about these recent incidents and is in no way connected," said Legionaries of Christ North American Territorial Director Fr. John Connor.
Fr. Sullivan was first accused of the misconduct in November 2017 when two women came forward and claimed he showed affection and favoritism toward one of them in her youth which continued into adulthood, said Fr. Connor.
The other woman said he crossed behavioral boundaries expected of a priest while she was in college.
Fr. Sullivan denied the allegations but was removed from ministry for a period of time and went to New York for a week-long psychological assessment with an experienced psychologist who works with priests. He has been receiving ongoing and frequent therapy since then, according to the Legionaries of Christ.
On October 30, 2019, another person came forward indicating that Fr. Sullivan crossed over the emotional and physical boundaries of a pastoral relationship with her and others.
On November 4, 2019, Fr. Sullivan was interviewed and was immediately removed from ministry and an investigation into the allegations commenced.
Fr. Sullivan has since admitted to engaging in misconduct on more than one occasion from 2013 to the present and said it involved "consenting adults."
According to the memo obtained by KBTX, the Legionaries is opening an investigation into all accusations of the past but did not say if any law enforcement agencies were involved in any of the investigations.
What's happening now
Father Sullivan is not practicing ministry. At this time, he is receiving in-patient counseling at a treatment center in the United States, KBTX has confirmed.
The matter was addressed to the congregation this weekend at St. Mary's Catholic Center in College Station.
Should you have additional information about Fr. Sullivan pertinent to this investigation, and you're a member of the St. Mary's Church, you should reach out to Emily Hurlimann at the Diocese of Austin at 512-949-2447.
Fr. Sullivan was ordained in 2008 and after that, he moved to Texas where he worked as the Legionaries of Christ vocations director from 2009 until 2016. He mainly worked with college students and young adults in Dallas, College Station, and Houston.
In 2016, he became the Texas Director of ConQuest and served in that role until November 4, 2019, primarily working with middle-school and high-school-aged boys in Texas. Also, on occasion, he would fill in for priests at various parishes and worked with adult men and women in spiritual direction and offered retreats and activities for the whole family in the diocese of Austin and the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.
Response from Legionaries of Christ
The following statement was released Saturday from Legionaries of Christ North American Territorial Director Fr. John Connor:
"Conduct such as this violates our code of conduct, our vows, and the trust people place in us as holy priests.
We remain committed to creating and maintaining a safe environment for all people who interact with our priests and are involved in our ministries. Every Legionary of Christ in North America receives ongoing training by VIRTUS in keeping with our Praesidium accreditation.
I apologize to all those who have been negatively affected by the inappropriate behavior of one of our priests. I ask you to continue to keep the women and their families who have been affected and Fr. Sullivan in your prayers. May God grant them the needed care and healing that they so desire and deserve."