The Maryland Province Jesuits, a Catholic religious order with priests serving throughout the Washington area and across eight states, released a list Monday of priests in the order who have been credibly accused of abusing children since the 1950s.
The admission by the Jesuit order, which is widely known for educating youths in its high schools and colleges, comes at a time when Catholic institutions are under tremendous pressure to respond more transparently to claims of sexual abuse by priests.
Religious orders – including the Jesuits, the Catholic church’s largest male order with almost 17,000 priests and brothers – have been particularly criticized by victims’ advocates for their opacity. Of about 48,500 priests nationwide, about 31 percent are from religious orders, and the other 69 percent are from dioceses, according to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, a research center about church life, at Georgetown University.
In October, the major umbrella organization for male orders urged the groups to publish names of their accused members, and on Monday, the Maryland Province Jesuits did just that, naming five living Jesuits, three who left the order after being accused of misconduct, and five who have died.
“We are deeply sorry for the harm we have caused to victims and their families. We also apologize for participating in the harm that abuse has done to our Church, a Church that we love and that preaches God’s care for all, especially the most vulnerable among us,” the Rev. Robert M. Hussey, leader of the Maryland Province Jesuits, wrote in a letter accompanying the detailed list of names and accusations. “The People of God have suffered, and they rightly demand transparency and accountability. We hope that this disclosure of names will contribute to reconciliation and healing.
It was unclear whether all of the priests named on the list were ever reported by the Jesuits to law enforcement. Mike Gabriele, a spokesman for the province, said that the province only automatically reports an accusation to authorities if the victim is still a minor when he or she reports the abuse.
If the victim is already an adult, Gabriele said, the province’s response varies by state. The Maryland province covers territory from Pennsylvania to Georgia.
The men accused of abusing minors served in high schools, including Gonzaga College High School in the District; in colleges, including St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, Wake Forest University in North Carolina and several more; at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital; at churches in the District and Baltimore; and other institutions.
Much of the abuse detailed in the reports dates back more than half a century. But other accusations are much more recent, and the list reveals that some of the Jesuit priests were not removed from ministry until well after 2002, when the Boston Globe published its expose of abuse in the church and the U.S. Catholic bishops committed to rooting out abusive priests.
The Jesuit order has long been respected for its emphasis on education; Jesuit priests run some of the country’s oldest and most prominent Catholic secondary schools and universities. After the Conference of Majors Superior of Men, the umbrella organization for religious orders, urged orders to release accused priests’ names, and after victims’ groups highlighted the lack of transparency from orders in a letter to U.S. ambassador to the Vatican Callista Gingrich last month, the Jesuits started publishing names.
First the West Province and the Central and Southern Province released names on Dec. 7. The Northeast Province, which stretches from New Jersey to Maine, said it will publish names on Jan. 15.
Five Jesuits identified in the Maryland Province’s report at one time were associated with Georgetown Preparatory School in Montgomery County. Gary Orr, a Jesuit who worked at Georgetown Prep from 1977 to 1980 and from 1989 to 2004, was sentenced to five years of supervised probation after he pled guilty in 2011 to two counts of sexual offense. Orr, who left the Jesuits, is a registered sex offender.
”I cannot express strongly enough on behalf of this institution and of the Society of Jesus my deepest apology and contrition to those whom we failed,“ school president Rev. James Van Dyke wrote in a letter to parents about the accused priests. ”I am grateful to those who came forward; that is an extraordinarily difficult task, I know, on so many levels – moral, spiritual, and psychological. I can only say to you that your painful honesty about what you experienced has made the rest of us aware of a problem – a deeply-rooted problem that afflicts all human institutions – that we all must acknowledge and face.“
On the Maryland Province’s list, two of the five living priests who are still in the Jesuit order were removed from ministry in the 1990s: Michael L. Barber pleaded guilty in 1994 to a sexual offense that the order believes occurred that year, and was removed from ministry the same year. Another priest, William J. Walsh, was accused of abusing children in the District, in Prince George’s County in Maryland, and in Pennsylvania, from the 1950s to the 1980s, and was removed from ministry in 1996.
But others were not removed from ministry until well after the Catholic Church implemented policies designed to root out abusive priests in the early 2000s.
One priest, Neil McLaughlin, is believed to have abused children from the 1950s to the 1980s. Accusations came in from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Georgia, Massachusetts and New York. He was not removed from ministry until 2007.
J-Glenn Murray was accused of abuse that happened once around 1981, but was not removed from ministry until 2011. Claude Ory faced multiple allegations of sexual abuse, probably in his time in Louisiana working at a Jesuit high school in the 1970s, and was not removed from ministry until 2007.
The Maryland province said that today, all five men are ”living in a restricted environment on a safety plan.“
In three cases of living priests on the list, Jesuits were accused and removed from ministry, then chose to leave the order. Those three men – Orr, H. Cornell Bradley and Louis A. Bonacci – are now living as private citizens. But in the cases of the other five living priests, even after the Jesuits barred them from practicing ministry in churches or otherwise acting as religious leaders, the order retains its agreement to provide the men with housing and care.
In the Jesuit’s Oregon province, the Center for Investigative Reporting said in a report this week, that meant housing at least 20 accused priests in Spokane, on the campus of Gonzaga University in Washington state. The Maryland province did not say where the five men living ”in a restricted environment“ are housed on the east coast.
The province also listed six more priests who had been accused of abuse but could not be fully investigated, sometimes because the priest had died. In those cases, the order said there was ”a reasonable possibility (semblance of truth) that the alleged offense occurred.“
The Maryland province, which oversees a large number of high schools and colleges, noted that five Jesuits who have been publicly included on lists of accused priests published by other provinces across the country also served in churches, schools or other institutions in the Maryland province at some point, and five more studied in the province.
Among the five priests who have died, three were removed from ministry before their deaths. One, accused of numerous sexual offenses over a span of more than 30 years, died in 2004 without facing consequences in the church or in court. A second, accused of an unwanted kiss in 1985, died in 2007 without being removed from ministry.
In the wake of a Pennsylvania grand jury report in August that named more than 300 accused priests in the state and brought renewed attention to abuse by Catholic clergy, dioceses across the country and some religious orders such as the Jesuits have published lists in recent months of credibly accused priests. That includes the Archdiocese of Washington, where Cardinal Donald Wuerl stepped down in October amid furor about his handling of abusive priests in the past – and where religious orders are under new scrutiny. At Washington’s Sacred Heart parish, a prominent congregation run by the Capuchin order, a priest was arrested recently on charges he abused teenage girls.
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