“There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
With the release of the University Commission’s report on the sexual abuse crisis in the CatholicChurch, the words of Leonard Cohen’s magnificent song, “Anthem,” have been very present inmy prayer and reflection. Gonzaga has taken an important step in shedding light on something that is both tragic and shameful.
The Commission was formed, in part, to respond to something that happened far from our campus: the devastating incidents of clergy sexual abuse that were outlined in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, released in the summer of 2018. But the Commission was also responding to something closer to home: the fact that some Jesuits who were credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors had been housed at Cardinal Bea House, a retirement facility and infirmary owned by the Jesuits, adjacent to the Gonzaga campus. That Jesuits with credible allegations who lived at Bea House did so under strict supervision with safety plans that outlined restrictions and risk reduction strategies is not a justification, but it is an important fact.
And while this history is painful, there has been significant reform in how the Catholic Church and religious orders like the Jesuits handle allegations of sexual abuse. The Jesuits West Province, of which I am a member, has a zero-tolerance policy for any form of abuse or misconduct. In addition to stringent procedures to ensure the safety of minors and vulnerable adults, any allegation made against a Jesuit involving a minor or vulnerable adult is reported to local law enforcement authorities. No Jesuit who has a credible allegation of sexually abusing a minor or vulnerable adult is allowed to remain in ministry. And no Jesuit with a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult will ever again be housed on or nearGonzaga’s campus, or any Jesuit school in our province.
Our protocols and procedures regarding misconduct have been in place since 2002 with the implementation of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. These protocols and procedures are regularly evaluated and updated. Additionally, the province is accredited by Praesidium, Inc., an outside, independent organization providing consultation, risk management assessment, policy development and training materials for use in preventing sexual misconduct and responding to allegations of sexual misconduct. We maintain that accreditation through ongoing training and regular auditsby Praesidium’s independent auditors.
In 2016, when the forthcoming merger of two Jesuit provinces offered access to a health care/retirement facility in California, the credibly accused who had been living at Bea House were moved to that facility. A number of other retired and infirm Jesuits who were never accused of misconduct also moved from Bea House at that time. Going forward, any Jesuit with a credible allegation of abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult will be assigned to live under a safety plan at this facility, a multi-acre complex, far from any school, playground or other environment that would pose a threat to minors.
With a desire to be fully transparent and accountable, the Jesuits West Province released a list in 2018 of the names of all Jesuits with credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult since 1950.
At the time of the release, the provincial of Jesuits West, Fr. Scott Santarosa, SJ, said, “On behalf of the Society of Jesus, I apologize to the victims and families who put their trust in a Jesuit, only to have that trust so profoundly betrayed. It is inconceivable that someone entrusted with the pastoral care of a child could be capable of something so harmful. Yet, tragically, this is a part of our Jesuit history, a legacy we cannot ignore.”
We Jesuits refer to each other as brothers—when you join a religious order like ours, you are joining a family. So, it is devastating for someone like me to think that any of my brothers, even those long deceased, harmed children. I cannot imagine anything worse.
On behalf of the current provincial of the Jesuits West Province, Fr. Sean Carroll, SJ, and echoing what three preceding provincials have said, I apologize to victims and families who have suffered because of a Jesuit. The worldwide leader of the Jesuits, Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ, said that universities should be a “source of a reconciled life.” We know that reconciliation takes time, but I am consoled that our path is brighter today.
Editor's note: This letter was sent to the Gonzaga Bulletin on Thursday, Sept. 2, but was not received until recently and published on Sept. 10.