For years, Gonzaga University students held part-time jobs at Cardinal Bea House, a Jesuit-owned building on the school’s campus that has drawn attention as a retirement home for priests, including some who were on “safety plans” following allegations of sexual abuse.
The Jesuits’ West Province and the university described the student jobs at Bea House this month. The Spokesman-Review began inquiring about the positions in December, when an episode of the popular podcast “Reveal” examined how at least 20 accused Jesuits had been sent to live at Bea House.
Officials said they weren’t aware of any inappropriate encounters involving Jesuits who lived at Bea House and students who worked there.
From 2000 to 2015, students filled two positions in food service at Bea House and another building on campus, Jesuit House, which has since been converted for academic use.
According to Gonzaga spokesman Dave Sonntag, those students were hired through the university’s student employment office but were paid and managed by a contractor, Sodexo. Numerous students filled the positions over the years, he said in an email last week.
Gonzaga students also worked at Bea House for the Jesuits’ Oregon Province, which became the West Province after sexual abuse claims prompted the group to file for bankruptcy in 2009. The province is an administrative area for the religious order encompassing 10 western states.
Province spokeswoman Tracey Primrose said those students’ duties included going on errands for Bea House nursing staff, working in the garden, helping with simple maintenance in the house and accompanying older Jesuits on errands. Around four years ago, two students also worked as nursing assistants in the infirmary.
“Before being hired, the students were briefed by the community’s superior that there were Jesuits at Bea House on safety plans who were monitored and restricted,” Primrose said in an email on April 9. “None of the students reported any inappropriate behavior by the Jesuits to the superior or the nurse/healthcare coordinator who helped supervise their work.”
Primrose said she couldn’t determine if students worked at Bea House for the province prior to 2009. Sonntag said that, “to the best of our knowledge,” the university was not involved in hiring students who worked for the province.
Primrose said the last of the accused priests living in Bea House was moved to a Jesuit facility in California in 2016, and students stopped working at Bea House in 2017.
Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh this month announced he’s assembling a commission to address clergy sexual abuse. McCulloh, who joined Gonzaga’s staff in 1990 and became president in 2010, has said “it was not until 2016” that he learned of the accused priests who had lived at Bea House.
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