Jesuit leaders respond to questions about living situations for priests accused of abuse

This Nov. 19, 2018 photo shows the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos, Calif. Abusive priests formerly at the Cardinal Bea House on the campus of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash,, were moved to the Los Gatos facility. (Emily Swing/Reveal via AP)

As Jesuits in the United States release lists of members of the Society of Jesus who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse against minors, questions are emerging about where the accused priests and brothers reside after being removed from ministry. In particular, a recent report by a nonprofit investigative journalism group has raised questions about why the addresses of the accused priests and brothers are not made public, and whether neighbors and law enforcement have a right to know that an individual deemed dangerous enough to be barred from ministry is living in their communities.

Mike Gabriele, the director of communications for the Maryland Province and the USA Northeast Province of the Society of Jesus, which cover much of the East Coast, said that when a member of the order is credibly accused but is not in the custody of law enforcement, he is placed on a “safety plan” that includes a removal from ministry, the monitoring of his whereabouts, restrictions on his access to technology and provisions meant to ensure that he is kept away from minors.

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Being able to impose those restrictions on the accused is one reason, Mr. Gabriele said, that the order does not simply seek to oust members facing credible accusations.

“If he’s still in the Society of Jesus and living in a monitored environment in a Jesuit community, we can keep tabs on him,” Mr. Gabriele said. “We can monitor his whereabouts and keep his restrictions in place, whereas if he were just to leave the society, then he would be out living in the residential community somewhere.”

Mr. Gabriele said he does not have access to the actual documents listing accused members of the order, but he pointed to a list of frequently asked questions published on the Maryland Province’s website that explains their contents. He said that the province’s safe environment protocols have been regularly audited and accredited by a third-party reviewer since 2003 and that an accused Jesuit is removed from active ministry at the start of an investigation. The province plans to conduct a third-party audit of its files “to ensure that our previous reviews were both accurate and complete.”

In order to monitor priests and brothers who live under restrictions, the Maryland Province partners with Praesidium Inc., a Texas-based consulting firm that helps organizations deal with sexual abuse of minors. The group’s website says that it created the first safe environment program for dioceses and that it has worked with “numerous dioceses and Catholic youth-serving organizations across the country.”

Spokesman Mike Gabriele said that when a member of the order is credibly accused but is not in the custody of law enforcement, he is placed on a “safety plan” that includes a removal from ministry.

Mr. Gabriele said safety plans are monitored by review boards and Praesidium, though he said that beyond facing the loss of accreditation by Praesidium, and a potential loss of public credibility, he was unsure of the consequences if a safety plan were not followed.

The nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting reported earlier this week that at least 20 Jesuits who had been credibly accused of abuse against minors were housed at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., until 2016. Those Jesuits were on safety plans, but, according to the report, these plans were not uniformly enforced. Facing backlash, the Jesuits West Province said that no Jesuits accused of abuse against children will be allowed to live at Gonzaga in the future.

“Jesuits West guarantees that no Jesuit with a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is currently or will ever be knowingly assigned to Gonzaga University or the Jesuit community on its campus,” the province said in a statement on Dec. 18. Instead, Jesuits facing credible allegations will live at the province’s senior health care facility in Los Gatos, Calif..

The Cardinal Bea House at Gonzaga doubles as both a retirement home and an infirmary for Jesuits of what was once the Oregon Province. (Oregon completed a merger with the California Province in 2017 to become the West Province.) The C.I.R. report outraged many readers who compared the relative comfort of Jesuit abusers at the Cardinal Bea House with the indifference and even hostility shown to victims and their families in the past. As with other cases of accused priests living in church-owned residences, some neighbors asked why such men were not reported to police, laicized or removed from the community.

“All I can say is that now when anything comes to our attention in this matter, we do remove a man while we investigate.”

Scott Santarosa, S.J., provincial of the West Province, explained decisions of the past as follows. “If we reassigned a Jesuit that we knew faced an allegation of abuse, that’s deadly wrong,” he said. “What’s hard is I can’t speak for who knew what, when. All I can say is that now when anything comes to our attention in this matter, we do remove a man while we investigate.”

He acknowledged that assigning members of the province who had been confirmed as abusers to the Cardinal Bea House was not ideal, however, the Oregon Province had few other residential options. He said his predecessors believed the Cardinal Bea home was suitably distant from any provincial ministry that might put known abusers in proximity to children.

Many of the elderly Jesuits who were identified as abusers were already in residence at Bea House when allegations against them began to surface. But Father Santarosa disputes the figure cited by C.I.R. He believes there were no more than seven Jesuits who had been abusers in residence at Cardinal Bea; four of them confined to nursing-home conditions.

“Once a man has final vows as a Jesuit,” Father Santarosa said, “it is sort of a commitment for the long haul. It is not easy to dismiss a man, but it was also partly because it was our responsibility to supervise these men who did so much harm on our watch.”

“Once a man has final vows as a Jesuit,” Father Santarosa said, “it is sort of a commitment for the long haul.”

There was the belief, he said, that laicized men would have “a lot more chance for reoffending if they were out in the community on their own than if they were under our care and supervision.”

More answers about how decisions were made in the past are likely to be revealed after a thorough review of provincial records early next year, said Father Santarosa. The province has commissioned an audit of its files by a former F.B.I. executive assistant director, Kathleen McChesney, now of Kinsale Management Consulting. Ms. McChesney was the first director of the U.S. bishops’ Office of Child and Youth Protection when it was established in 2002.

On Dec. 17, the Maryland Province released a list of Jesuits “with a credible or established offense against a minor” dating from 1950. The most recent instance of abuse occured in 2002, the order said, with most of the allegations dating back decades. The list included 19 Jesuits, most of whom are deceased.

The province said that no credibly accused Jesuit is currently in active ministry. Other provinces have released similar lists in recent days. The only province that has not yet done this is the Northeast Province, which said it plans to release names in the new year.

Five Jesuits on the Maryland Province list are reported to have been removed from ministry and to be now living “in a restricted environment on a safety plan.” The list does not include information about their residences, but an article in ThinkProgress reported that four of the men live in a Jesuit retirement home in Baltimore.

The Maryland province said that no credibly accused Jesuit is currently in active ministry.

On Dec. 7 the West Province released the names of all priests and brothers credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors since 1950. Father Santarosa considers that a “draft” list and said more names may be surfaced by the Kinsale review.

Mr. Gabriele said the order does not plan on “getting into the weeds” of where the accused Jesuits reside by releasing individual addresses. But he said the order is “very transparent” when it comes to releasing names and said that the accused Jesuits live in “strictly monitored environments.”

The decision about where to house priests who have been removed from ministry because of credible allegations of abuse against minors has been controversial. Earlier this year, parents in Illinois were upset that the Diocese of Joliet did not inform them that two priests who faced allegations were living in a retirement home near a junior high school.

Officials at Fordham University apologized last month after reports emerged that a priest who had been removed from ministry lived in a nursing facility for retired priests on campus before he died. And parents at a school in Kansas expressed anger that former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was removed from ministry by Pope Francis earlier this year after allegations that he sexually abused a minor were deemed credible, was living in a friary near an elementary school.

Mr. Gabriele said that the Maryland Province seeks residences that do not house active ministries and where the accused can be monitored. Sometimes, he said, the health care needs of the Jesuit are also taken into consideration.

In many instances, accused Jesuits who have been removed from ministry are not required to register as sex offenders because they were not criminally prosecuted, and some of their actions were not technically crimes. This means they are not subject to legal restrictions when it comes to housing, as they would be if they had been convicted by a court.

When asked if residences on college campuses are acceptable places to house those under restrictions, Mr. Gabriele did not rule them out, saying residences that can be properly monitored and that are away from minors may be suitable.

“I think what’s appropriate is that the Jesuits who are pulled from ministry and on our safety plans are in communities where there are no active ministries going on, like on a college campus, and that they’re not associated with any Jesuit work, even at a parish,” he said.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Correction (12/21/2018; 1:29 p.m.): The merger of the Oregon and California Jesuit provinces was completed in 2017, not 2012 as originally reported.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Dina Janis
5 months ago

If the church wants to truly redeem itself- it can and should do the following: allow priests who have been accused of abuse to face trial legally; prosecute Bishops who have protected them with endangering the welfare of children; release the names and addresses of all abusers just as would be true for any non-priest who has been accused and served time for crimes such as these- so that people living in a given neighborhood have the information they need to protect themselves; consider NOT supporting them financially if they have been accused of these kinds of crimes( seems a small price to pay to be taken care of for the rest of one's life while privately "atoning" for one's mistakes- something no other citizen of this nation would be allowed to do); allow WOMEN to have true leadership roles in the church institutionally at every level; embrace this period of revelation of the corruption of the institutional catholic church as an opportunity for true reform- and that means listening to women, victims of abuse, and committing to the actual values of Christ rather than protecting the institution of the church. Priests must stop protecting each other- Bishops must stop protecting themselves and their diocese, and the nation must cease allowing priests to be treated any differently from other abusers- because they are breaking the LAW- not just God's law- but the actual LAW and they should be held criminally responsible.

Marina Barnett
4 months 3 weeks ago

I am reminded of The Scarlet Letter by Hawthorne. Why not make these priests--by Catholic law--wear some insignia indicating that they are pedophiles? A large letter "P" on their sleeve perhaps?

Mister Mckee
4 months 3 weeks ago

“Once a man has final vows as a Jesuit,” Father Santarosa said, “it is sort of a commitment for the long haul. It is not easy to dismiss a man, but it was also partly because it was our responsibility to supervise these men who did so much harm on our watch.”

Y'all had NO problems kicking ex-Jesuits John McNeill and Robert Goss out!!!

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