I was born in Utqiaġvik (Barrow), Alaska. I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, with the privilege of being able to return to my hometown regularly. My family has worked tirelessly to teach me and my siblings about our rich Inupiaq culture. Being an Inupiaq woman is central to my identity, and the values that my culture instills in me are something I carry with me everywhere I go.
On Dec. 17, my mother sent me an article from the Anchorage Daily News with a headline that read, “Jesuits quietly sent abusive Alaska priests to retire with others on a Washington college campus.” My heart immediately sank, I took a deep breath and I read the rest of the article.
The same day, President Thayne McCulloh sent a statement to Gonzaga’s community in response to the numerous accused priests, the most notable being James Poole. In President McCulloh’s statement, he mentions that the news of these horrible circumstances brought “feelings of sadness, disgust and betrayal,” indicating that he, among others from GU’s senior leadership, had no idea that the Society of Jesus was knowingly re-assigning credibly accused men to locations, such as the Cardinal Bea House.
As much as I want to believe that GU was unaware of the abusive priests allowed to reside on campus, I am not sure that I can fully believe that, and if they were completely oblivious, then they should be more diligent about who is residing on, or near campus. Simple Google searches relating to the Rev. Poole reveal a history of misconduct, including articles from 2005 stating that Poole was sued by an Alaskan woman, which is a matter of public record, for sexually assaulting her as a child. A timeline published in 2011 from "FRONTLINE" includes accounts of the years of abuse that Poole inflicted prior to residing in the Cardinal Bea House.
The Jan. 17 issue of The Bulletin featured the headline “Prominent priests resign from GU” on the front page. The resignations of Fr. Pat Lee and Fr. Frank Case raise many questions. Who else knew about the abusive priests being sent to GU and other surrounding areas? How could anyone remain silent while knowing that these abusive predators were residing near a college campus? What is being done to repair the relationship between the university and the Society of Jesus? With the exceptions of The Bulletin’s article and President McCulloh’s statement, no other conversations about this preventable injustice have occurred.
I love GU and I would not have come to this school if I thought something about it was severely awry. I come from a culture that believes in fixing broken things and in improving, caring for and nurturing what you love. Something must be done to ensure that the negligence or outright disregard never happens again. The relations and communication between GU and the Society of Jesus need to be more transparent.
At the very least, I hope this event prompts GU to be more aware about the people residing on and near the campus. Allowing abusive priests, like Poole, near college campuses hurts sexual assault survivors, people of faith, people of color and the campus community in its entirety.
Lindsay Panigeo is a junior studying Biology.