We have updated this story for clarity.
In the middle of Gonzaga University’s campus stands the Jesuit-owned Cardinal Bea House, a facility that for three decades served as a retirement center for Jesuits, some of whom were sexual abusers.
The Jesuits came from across the Oregon Province, an area that includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska, to retire.
“Some men who had credible allegations and were removed from ministry were housed at Bea House for a period of years, where there was a superior assigned specifically to monitor them and care for them and to keep them safe and away from circumstances that would be problematic,” said Father Jim Voiss, rector of the Community of Jesuits at GU, in September. Voiss said that he was not involved in any of the decisions surrounding the situation.
“In large part, it was because we needed a space for them to live in,” he said.
The Bea House — which is owned by Jesuits West and not managed by GU — was determined to be an ideal location for these individuals as it is near the Mount St. Michael’s cemetery north of Spokane, where Jesuits from the western province are buried.
According to an investigation published by the The Northwest News Network and The Center for Investigative Reporting, at least 20 Jesuits who resided in the Bea House were accused of sexual abuse.
The investigation details the records of sexual misconduct by priests, mainly in Native Alaskan villages, who were relocated to GU to serve out their retirement.
While at Bea House, those with allegations against them would be placed on safety plans that required the actions of individuals be monitored and prohibit unsupervised conduct with individuals of the profiles whom they sexually abused.
Voiss, the rector at GU for the past six years, said he was unable to say how recently any of the Jesuits with “safety plans” were on the university’s campus, although he estimated that it was “certainly over a year ago.”
According to Jesuit records, the last priest on a safety plan was moved from the Bea House in 2016.
Now, all known abusive Jesuits have been moved to a community in Los Gatos, California, where they “can receive the kind of oversight that is appropriate and necessary to ensure the safety of the people,” Voiss said.
In October, GU President Thayne McCulloh said he was never contacted by the Jesuit provinces regarding the placement of Jesuits in the Bea House or missioned at the university, but he knew some Bea House residents had safety plans.
McCulloh said he was not sure when we he first became aware that Jesuits on safety plans were living on campus. In a statement released Monday night, McCulloh said he was not aware of some of the Jesuits’ actions until the The Northwest News Network and The Center report was published.
As GU’s first non-Jesuit president, McCulloh said he believes previous presidents may have known of the accusations against residents of the Bea House through informal transmission of information inside the Jesuit community, but that he did not know what Jesuits were assigned where or the credibility of the allegations against those that lived there.
According to the statement, Gonzaga is “is not aware of any reports of abuse or misconduct involving retired priests during the time they were living in Cardinal Bea House.”
Statement from Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh
In a statement released Monday night, President Thayne McCulloh said he was not aware of some of the Jesuits' allegations of sexual abuse until the The Northwest News Network and The Center report was published.
“If I had been passed on knowledge [regarding the histories of those living in the Bea House], I probably would’ve been compelled to engage differently,” McCulloh said.
Voiss was hesitant to say whether students should have been notified of their sexually abusive neighbors.
“I wasn’t [the Jesuits in the Bea House’s] superior, I wasn’t in a position to make any determination on that, so I’m not going to comment on that,” he said. “Certainly, if there were any real danger to the students, then something about that probably should’ve been addressed, but I think that the individuals who were there, their inclinations were towards different profiles.
“To publicize the fact of the people that are living there also raises the possibility of a lot of very high profile public action. So I don’t know how to best resolve that.”
Currently, Voiss said that Jesuits undergo annual training to ensure clarity surrounding what constitutes a violation of boundaries and what circumstances might arise where they need to be noticed.
Additionally, before entering the Society of Jesus, individuals go through an intense vetting process that includes extensive conversations with vocation directors, psychological evaluations and background checks.
However, the rector was uncertain of what recourse was taken after a claim was made.
“If an allegation is substantiated, and I don’t know the sequencing on this, and it could be immediately, I’m not sure when, the civil authorities are notified,” Voiss said. “We’ve gotten more alert over the course of the mistakes of the past and the bad choices that have been made, we’ve learned how to work with the civil authorities and make sure everything is taken care of from that side, but also to prevent things from happening in the first place.”
Ian Davis-Leonard is a sports editor. Follow him on Twitter: @ilowe714.