Order of St. Julian of Norwich covers up founder’s alleged misconduct

By | March 18, 2023
The Order of Julian of Norwich Accused of Misconduct

Anglican Watch has received credible allegations of abuse from multiple sources involving the late founder of the Episcopal Order of St. Julian of Norwich, Fr. John Swanson, aka Fr. John-Julian OJN. Additionally, it appears the Order is attempting to cover up the charges.

Founded in 1985 in Connecticut by Swanson, the community is semi-enclosed and takes Benedictine vows.

The community eventually moved to Wisconsin, and focuses on manual labor, contemplation, and prayer.

In 2021, following the death of its founder, the enclosed community became all female. Oblate and associate membership remains open to both men and women.

Subsequent to Swanson’s death, allegations of sexual misconduct arose involving Swanson and two victims.

Sources close to the matter tell Anglican Watch that Reverend Mother Hilary Crupi OJN, head of the order, has instructed members not to discuss the matter with others absent her prior permission.

The Order has not responded to written inquiries from Anglican Watch about the allegations.

About swanson

Swanson was a graduate of the 1957 class of Nashotah House. Per his obituary:

Born in 1932, Fr. John-Julian graduated from Nashotah House in 1957 and went on to serve the Lord in Connecticut as the rector of a small church.

He became very active in the anti-Vietnam War protests and was involved in the Mass for Peace performed at the Pentagon, where he and the other participants were subsequently arrested. Fr. John-Julian was friends with Jonathan Daniels, an Episcopal seminarian from Episcopal Divinity School who was shot and killed during the civil rights movement in 1965. During this time Fr. John-Julian also headed up Connecticut Child Services, where he worked to remove children from abusive or dangerous homes and place them in foster homes.

He was later invited by the former Bishop of New York and the rector of Trinity Wall Street to found the “Seminary of the Streets” in New York City. This ministry focused on bringing the gospel outside the walls of the classroom and the parish and to the people. They focused on addressing poverty and addiction and advocated for radical love and peace during the turbulent times of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Fr. John-Julian was an early advocate of gay rights and became deeply moved by the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, whose picture he kept in his stall at Nashotah House.

Later, he founded a small religious community in New England called the Order of Julian of Norwich, a contemplative society of men and women. Later they were invited by the then-Bishop of Milwaukee to take up residence in the former Racine College and later moved north to White Lake, Wisconsin.

The importance of disclosure

As we have said many times, Christians are called to bring light to the darkness. We cannot live in right relationship with each other, or with God, when we fail to disclose on the organizational, intrapersonal, and interpersonal levels.

Thus, the Order’s attempt to cover up the matter is counter to its stated mission. Secrecy damages the church at every level and places the organization’s interests ahead of those it purports to serve.

The only appropriate response is for the order to disclose misconduct, take measures to prevent future issues, and to report the matter to law enforcement. Even if the alleged misconduct is not illegal in nature or past the statute of limitations, a report must be filed and made public, for abuse is rarely an isolated incident and is vastly under-reported.

Disclosure is particularly important in light of Swanson’s ministry to children, and his early support for LGBTQ+ rights. Efforts to promote rights for both groups are hindered when matters involving potential misconduct are handled in secrecy. Additionally, Nashotah House has a sordid record of misconduct, thus making transparency all the more important.

In short, the Order appears to be following the old Roman model of cover-up, deny, evade, avoid, and more, versus being accountable. This is not a Christian model and is unacceptable. (Indeed, oblate member Desmond Tutu modeled the importance of truth-telling as an inherent part of reconciliation.)

For the record, Anglican Watch is not reporting the specifics of the allegations, as we have been unable to identify original sources. But we have received the allegations from multiple credible sources and find them credible.

We therefore call on the Order to make full disclosure and conduct an independent, third-party investigation. The results should be made accountable and restitution made to any the Order has hurt. The allegations need to be reported to police, and there must be transparency at all levels.

Until this happens, Anglican Watch recommends that donors withhold funding. There is no excuse for abuse. And there’s even less excuse for cover-up. And it is contrary to the Gospels to fund either abuse or cover-up. And we invite the Order and its leadership to deny or refute the allegations in question.

In other words, silence is not golden when abuse is involved.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments