Tangled Relationships in the Diocese of San Jose Warrant Further Investigation
A teacher who has been accused of abusing at least two high school students during his four years at Presentation High School is now being investigated by the school where he was most recently employed. We hope that victims and witnesses are encouraged to come forward and share any knowledge they may have with police and prosecutors.
Jeff House was accused of abusing at least two students at Presentation High School, an elite, Catholic, all-girls school that operates within the Diocese of San Jose. It is alarming to us that in the few short years he worked there that he was able to abuse multiple victims. We believe that it is highly likely he abused children at the other places he worked, too. We are glad that the Kirby School – an elite non-denominational private school in neighboring Santa Cruz County where House was last employed – is now examining the eleven years Mr. House spent there after his stint at Presentation.
Mr. House spent 17 years, 1982 – 1999, at Mitty High School, another San Jose Diocese facility. The Superintendent of Schools at the San Jose Diocese from 1993 until 2009 was Marian Stuckey. Like ships crossing in the night, Mr. House and Ms. Stuckey were known to each other via the Mitty connection from 1993, when Ms. Stuckey became the Superintendent. Ms. Stuckey herself was named in a recent report into abuse at Presentation as having enabled sexual abuse during her time as the principal of that school, prior to her promotion to the head of all schools in the Diocese.
Now the San Jose Diocese purports to be investigating both Ms. Stuckey and Mr. House.
We do not believe an internal investigation conducted by Catholic officials from San Jose will be worthwhile. Rather, the probe should be conducted by an outside expert with full access to personnel files who would report their findings to the police and the public at the same time as it would be reported to the Diocese, not after.
We also believe that the investigation should encompass all schools that Ms. Stuckey supervised. Given that she left an abuser in a position of power at least once during her time in Presentation makes us believe it is likely that it happened again.
As for Mr. House, in addition to an intensive effort to invite victims to speak out, his relationship with Ms. Stuckey should be probed; did she arrange for his transfer to Presentation? Did the Diocese of San Jose furnish a positive recommendation for Mr. House when he transferred to Presentation and then to Kirby? Why did he move to Presentation? What did Ms. Stuckey tell Mary Miller, her successor principal at Presentation? These are critical questions that must be answered.
The San Jose Diocese has diligently avoided naming lay teachers, volunteers, nuns or deacons on its abuser list. An exhaustive look at the Diocese’s school system will no doubt yield abusers – Presentation has at least six, and as many as 17, and it is only one of the schools in the Diocesan school system. Bellarmine has at least 17, including at least one lay teacher. Mitty, with House, has at least one. Joseph Pritchard, a notorious abuser, had 30 victims at an elementary school in San Jose. Don Flickinger, another priest accused of multiple crimes, is alleged to have abused children at St. Cabrini School and parish.
We believe a culture of cover-up within the Diocese of San Jose enabled the repeated abuses at Presentation, Bellarmine, and elsewhere. These secrets should be uncovered once and for all. These are not crimes of the past; abuse was still occurring at the time another Presentation leader, Mary Miller, was forced to resign in 2017. Jeffry Hicks, another teacher from Presentation, is in jail after he abused at another private school after Ms. Miller, aware of his abuse at Presentation, fired him but did not inform the police of his crimes.
Each victim of each of those perpetrators deserve recognition and healing. The Stuckey and House investigations can start to provide transparency and should lead to justice and needed systemic change within the Diocese and its interconnected institutions. It can be a model for how the next phase of the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church is acknowledged and reckoned with.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)