What Is Being Done to Prevent More Abusers Being Housed at Gonzaga?

Some question whether Gonzaga’s president knew about 24 suspended and accused abusive Jesuit priests who were at the school. But the key question is actually “What’s he doing now to punish those who were clearly reckless and reach out to those who may have been hurt?”

We share the view of those who believe GU President Thayne McCulloh knew about the potentially dangerous clerics. The Spokesman Review reports that

  • the clerics sent there “included several notorious Jesuits with long and publicly documented histories of abuse. . .that were reported in the news media and revealed in lawsuits and bankruptcy actions over more than a decade,” and
  • McCulloh “offered a seemingly contradictory series of assertions about what he knew and didn’t know.”

He himself has said: “At no time during my tenure did the province inform me there were men on safety plans living at Bea House CONTEMPORANEOUS to the time they were living there.

Taking him at his word, it’s clear that McCulloh knew AFTER one or more Jesuits were at his school that they were accused abusers.

But again, the more pressing question is “What is McCulloh doing now to safeguard the vulnerable and heal the wounded?” We see little evidence he’s taking real action.

He should

  • immediately commission an independent investigation into this troubling situation,
  • publicly expose and harshly condemn, by name, Jesuit officials he suggests deceived he and his staff and his students,
  • punish them as best he can, and
  • write to all former students and staff who were at Gonzaga when these priests were, begging anyone with information or suspicions about their crimes to call law enforcement, and seek out independent sources of help like police, prosecutors, therapists and support groups like ours.

Last week, McCulloh wrote “We will continue to engage in ways of integrating and more deeply coming to understand how that history should inform our way of moving forward.” That’s gibberish. How to ‘move forward’ is crystal clear – use university resources to identify and expose anyone who acted recklessly and identify and help anyone who may have been hurt.

He must stop talking about “listening sessions” and “circles of conversation,” and instead directly reach out to survivors.

Finally, we’re skeptical of the claim that no more Jesuits on safety plans are in or around campus, and won’t be again. We strongly suspect that when public attention wanes, church and university officials will quietly backslide into old, secretive and irresponsible patterns. The only real answer is continued vigilance by police, prosecutors and the public.

CONTACT: Zach Hiner, Executive Director (zhiner@snapnetwork.org, 517-974-9009)

(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

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