Church scandal hits close to home

List of Jesuit priests accused of sexual abuse of minors includes four previously assigned to Xavier but none currently associated with the university

Photo courtesy of Xavier Library Archives | Fr. Edward O’Brien, S.J., was one of the priests named in the Midwest Province of Jesuits’ report listing those facing established allegations of sexual abuse toward minors. O’Brien was at Xavier between 1950-1983.

A report issued last month by the Midwest Province of Jesuits revealed that no members of the society currently associated with Xavier face allegations of sexual abuse of minors.

The Province’s Dec. 17 report listed all Jesuit priests with established allegations of sexual abuse of minors since 1955 to a nation of believers and non-believers alike wrestling with the consequences of the 60-year scandal.  

Although no one currently associated with the university was named, four individuals who had at one point been assigned to Xavier appeared in the report: Fr. Mark Finan, S.J., (at Xavier 1956-1958), Fr. David McCarthy, S.J., (1956-1961), Fr. Donald Nastold, S.J, (1979-1991) and most notably Fr. Edward O’Brien, S.J., who was associated with Xavier from 1950-1983 and had a scholarship named for him after his death in 1983. The scholarship is no longer offered by the university. 

Of those named in the report, only O’Brien was the subject of allegations for incidents that occurred while serving in a position at Xavier. Those allegations did not arise until 1990, seven years after his death.  

According to a statement released the same day by Fr. Michael Graham, president, two other individuals formerly associated with Xavier — Br. Jerome Pryor, S.J., (at Xavier 1974-2002) and Fr. Louis Bonacci, S.J., (1994-1999) — were also named in allegations of past sexual improprieties.  

Pryor was removed from Xavier in 2002 after reports of improprieties with students. However, allegations involving Pryor did not involve abuse of minors, and he therefore did not appear in the Province’s report. Bonacci was permanently removed from ministry by the Maryland Province in 2011 following allegations of misconduct with a minor in the late 1970s, prior to his time at Xavier. 

The individuals implicated in the report served in multiple capacities at Xavier, such as faculty and ministry roles.

The report was released four months after an 18-month Pennsylvania grand jury report claimed more than 300 clergy had sexually abused more than 1,000 children throughout several decades.  

Dioceses nationwide have received mounting pressure from Catholics, survivors and survivor advocacy groups, such as Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and, since The Boston Globe covered allegations against former priest John G. Geoghan in 2002.  

While Geoghan was accused of sexually abusing 130 boys, there was only enough evidence to convict him of a single instance of child molestation, resulting in a 10-year prison sentence. 

In his statement, Graham assured members of the community that since the university adopted the Dallas Charter in 2002, there have been no reports of sexual assault by Jesuits at Xavier. 

The Dallas Charter, more formally known as the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, was created by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to provide universal procedures in response to public outcry concerning Geoghan. It requires dioceses to report allegations to local authorities.

Reporters and survivor advocacy groups like SNAP have worked to expose the reaches of the Catholic Church’s scandal since., a non-profit watchdog, hosts a bevy of news articles, released church documents and reports detailing the sexual abuse of both minors and adults in the Catholic Church in the United States.  The website provides evidence of sexual abuse in the Church dating back to the 1940s and includes allegations in nearly every state.  

In many cases reported on the website, authorities within the Church knew of clergy’s abusive behavior and allowed them to continue in their positions involving work with children in schools, hospitals or youth groups. Pennsylvania’s grand jury report also pointed to this trend.

According to a 2004 report from the USCCB informally known as the Jay Report, 10,667 allegations of sexual misconduct were leveled against 4,392 clergy, including nuns, seminarians and deacons, between 1950-2002. The Center for Applied Research for the Apostolate at Georgetown University has recorded an additional 4,878 allegations after 2002. 

According to the Jay Report, 100 of the 4,392 accused were given prison sentences by 2002. The reasons for this statistic are many. For one, the alleged abuse was often reported after the alleged offender’s death or after the crime’s statute of limitations had expired. Additionally, because many of the accusers were children at the time the alleged abuse took place and did not bring forth accusations until years, even decades, later, it was difficult to provide evidence of the abuse.

Groups continue to release lists of allegedly predatory clergy, including dioceses in Wisconsin and California. However, survivors and advocates have expressed dissatisfaction with the Church’s attempts to redeem itself.

While bishops convened for a retreat concerning clerical sex abuse on Dec. 19 on University of Chicago’s campus, SNAP and another survivors’ advocacy group held public demonstrations imploring dioceses nationwide to comply with or instigate investigations through law enforcement rather than performing their own audits.   

That same day, the Illinois attorney general reported that six Illinois dioceses had failed to name at least 500 clergy in their list of alleged sexually abusive clergy. Each diocese named in the report claimed to adhere to the Dallas Charter. 

By: Heather Gast and Ryan Kambich | Campus News Editor and Op-Eds Editor