Traditionalist Catholic College Hires Dean Alleged To Have “Psychologically Abused” Students

Dennis Buonafede is awaiting an Ontario College of Teachers Discipline Committee hearing for allegedly making racist, misogynistic, and conspiratorial remarks to his students in 2020.

Hazel Woodrow
Canadian Anti-Hate Network

A picture of the Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College sign, which is blue with white lettering, and is held up by white wooden beams. The picture is taken in the winter and it is snowing, with a thin layer of snow on the ground.Source: Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College/Facebook

A retired teacher awaiting a Discipline Committee hearing for allegations of professional misconduct, including abusing students verbally and psychologically, has been hired at a traditionalist Catholic college to a senior position as Interim Dean of Students. 

According to the faculty handbook of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College (SWC), as the Interim Dean of Students at SWC, Buonafede is “responsible for working with the President to develop and maintain a ‘thriving Catholic culture’ at SWC.” Under that umbrella, he administers student discipline, receives grievances about SWC policies and practices, as well as a host of other student life-related tasks.

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A Ontario College of Teachers (OCT) Notice of Hearing from November 2023 cites allegations that Buonafede made inappropriate remarks between September and December 2020 which targeted Black people, women, Asian people, 2SLGBTQ+ people. It is further alleged that he “asked students to pray that Donald Trump [won] the presidential election.” 

He was subsequently given a three-day unpaid suspension by the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board (DPCDSB) in February 2021. 

In a second Notice of Hearing (NOH) issued a month later, the OCT added the allegation that in May 2021, he “sent an email to school staff that contained non-work related content…despite having been reminded by the school administration about the appropriate use of Board email” and “attached to the email a link to an article from Crisis Magazine entitled ‘Being Critical of Critical Race Theory’ and/or suggested it as a possible resource for teachers.” 

Critical race theory (CRT) is a high-level interdisciplinary academic concept that is often conflated with general social justice and anti-racism taught in schools. Many right-wing critics of CRT, such as the author of the article Buonafede forwarded to his colleagues, claim that it is essentially just race-based Marxism, an allegation repeatedly across history about anti-racism. This most recent round of anti-communist anti-anti-racism was deliberately manufactured by American conservative activist Chris Rufo, who called CRT “the perfect villain.” 

He was subsequently given a five-day unpaid suspension by the DPCDSB in September 2021.

According to the NOH, Buonafede allegedly “made eye contact with the Black students in the class” and made comments suggesting that “the issue within the Black community was that they do not have strong family values” and that “was the reason why there was so much violence and/or gang activity in the Black community.” 

He contrasted this with his own Italian “strong family values.”

Regarding women, the NOH alleges that Buonafede said words to the effect of “Females/women have an expiry date,” explaining that if women pursue higher education, travel, and “work like a man” until their thirties, “men will look for a 20-year-old.” Women, he allegedly said, should “consider delaying their education in order to have babies.”

SWC appears to offer women the best of both worlds, producing “a remarkable record of marriages among its student alumni, so much so that it now is also known unofficially as a Catholic Mingle College,” according to local newspaper The Eganville Leader.

Buonafede is also a contributor for the website Integrated Catholic Life. In an article written in 2015, he narrates a conversation supposedly with a classroom of high school philosophy students. He asks his female students when they plan to have children, and chastises them for planning to wait until their thirties.

“Let me get this straight. You are going to do something that you know is detrimental to yourselves and your children. Why?” 

In the article, he proposes various options for how we could order “our social and political structures to conform to metaphysical principles and our intrinsic human nature.” This includes promoting marriage in the early twenties and making the divorce process more difficult. 

In another article lamenting modern childbearing trends for the same site, he referred to the decline of large families as a “demographic suicide that is occurring in the West.”

“Europe,” he wrote, “is dying.”

The NOH also alleges that Buonafede said that he does not support the LGBTQ community, and told students that “individuals can rationalize their way out of feelings for the same sex” and that “the best course of action for homosexuals was to engage in heterosexual relationships.”

Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College, which bills itself as a “faithful Catholic institution… where all the professors are faithful to the Magisterium,” was accredited to confer Bachelor of Catholic Studies degrees in 2017. SWC was the only Canadian school named in the National Catholic Register's "Catholic Identity College Guide," in part due to their prohibition against "objectionable clubs," including "LGBT-related clubs.”

The NOH says Buonafede didn’t only praise former US President Donald Trump, but also expressed to his students that he “subscribes to the beliefs of QAnon and/or that he is intrigued by QAnon.” He has also promoted a QAnon Telegram channel on his personal social media page. 

QAnon is a “big tent” antisemitic conspiracy theory which holds that Trump was leading a shadow campaign against a global cabal of Satanic pedophilic cannibals. It has been directly linked to numerous killings, including of children

Buonafede is also alleged to have told his students that the coronavirus is fake. 

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, SWC found itself at the centre of controversy in the small town of Barry’s Bay, where the population hovers around 1,000 residents. Locals have repeatedly raised concerns about students from the school openly flouting masking and gathering guidelines, including organizing a protest against public health measures. According to the Toronto Star, critics of the college “say some of its faculty members are a source of misinformation that is fuelling vaccine hesitancy and COVID-19 outbreaks in the community.”

There is significant overlap—both in personnel and ideology—between SWC and the far-right ultra-traditionalist media outlet LifeSiteNews, whose co-founder John Henry Westen lives in Barry’s Bay and is considered a “friend” of the college. 


The Small Canadian College Town Home To An Anti-LGBTQ Media Empire And Covid Conspiracists 

According to his author page on a Catholic magazine he wrote for, Buonafede has been highly involved in lay ministries in the Catholic Church for decades, including acting as director of the Ontario Catholic Youth Leadership Camp for three years. A post to Facebook also indicates he brought the pro-patriarchy Catholic men’s group Band of Christian Brothers to his Orangeville parish. 

He has been listed as a sessional faculty member in theology at SWC since at least 2021, and his wife is the development liaison for the college as of 2023. Six weeks after the notice of hearing alleging Buonafede’s abuse of students, SWC announced his appointment for the first time on social media, attached to a post soliciting donations for its Christmas fundraising campaign. 

In the post, Buonafede and his wife emphasized their years of prayerful and financial support for the college, writing that “by God’s generosity we were able to provide the college not only with a monthly donation but we supplied residences with wifi during the COVID lockdowns, bows and arrows for the student’s leisure activities and a canoe.” 

Neither Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College, nor Dennis Buonafede responded to a request for comment.


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