Four months after Gonzaga University was criticized for allowing sexually abusive priests to live on campus, GU President Thayne McCulloh announced Monday he is assembling a commission to address the abuse crisis that continues to grip the Catholic Church.
In an email to faculty and staff, McCulloh said the commission will “identify, discuss and make recommendations” about how the university should respond to abuse by clergy.
“It is painful to think of the lifelong consequences that abuse has upon its victims, and my conversations with members of our community have strengthened my resolve to do all that we can as a community to ensure future generations do not suffer from this same abuse of power,” McCulloh wrote. “ … I believe there is a role that Gonzaga as a university must play in learning about and responding to the systematic issues that have plagued the church.”
McCulloh solicited application letters from those who want to join the commission, saying the panel should include members of the faculty and staff, Jesuits, trustees, students “and potentially a representative of the local community.”
He set an application deadline of April 26 and said the commission and its leaders will be named shortly afterward. The commission will meet through the summer and fall and draft an initial set of recommendations by the end of the fall semester, he said.
Gonzaga faced scrutiny in December after a story on the popular podcast “Reveal” called attention to Cardinal Bea House, a Jesuit-owned building on the university’s campus where priests of the Oregon Province were sent to retire after “credible allegations” of sexual abuse.
A week after that story was published, two Jesuit priests resigned as university vice presidents. One of them, the Rev. Frank Case, was featured in the story because he had recommended an accused priest for a job at a Tacoma hospital in the 1980s.
The Jesuits West Province, successor to the Oregon Province, owns Bea House and has said it moved all of its accused priests to a facility in Los Gatos, California, in 2016. McCulloh, who joined Gonzaga’s staff in 1990 and became president in 2010, has said “it was not until 2016” that he learned about the accused priests who had lived at Bea House.
McCulloh did not agree to be interviewed for the “Reveal” story and has not given any interviews on the topic of clergy sexual abuse since that story was published. Gonzaga’s public relations office declined another request for an interview with McCulloh on Tuesday.
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