SPOKANE, Wash. – Jesuit leaders say no priest credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor will ever be sent to Gonzaga University after a report this week that at least 20 clergy members facing sexual abuse allegations were allowed to live out their lives at the campus in Washington state.
The revelation comes amid a renewed national outcry over allegations of the sexual abuse of children by priests in the Catholic church. Jesuits are a Catholic order that includes more than 16,000 men worldwide who serve in churches, high schools, colleges and other institutions. Founded in the 1880s, Jesuits operate the Catholic university in Spokane, Washington.
“Jesuits West guarantees that no Jesuit with a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is currently or will ever be knowingly assigned to Gonzaga University or the Jesuit community on its campus,” the Jesuits West Province said in a statement Tuesday.
Instead, Jesuits facing credible allegations will live at the province’s senior health care facility in Los Gatos, California, the province said.
The Center for Investigative Reporting reported Monday that the Jesuits had sent at least 20 priests facing sexual abuse allegations to Cardinal Bea House. The last known abusive priest was moved out of Cardinal Bea House on the Gonzaga campus in 2016, Jesuit records show.
Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh on Monday said he was disturbed by the story and demanded guarantees that no priests accused of abuse would be assigned to Gonzaga again.
One priest, the Rev. James Poole, admitted under oath that he sexually abused indigenous women and girls in Alaska. In a deposition taken while he lived in Bea House, Poole said he regularly went to Gonzaga’s library and basketball games.
According to the news report, Poole’s misconduct was first documented in 1960 and continued in Alaska until 1988, when he was removed from his position. The following year, he took a job as a chaplain at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma.
Poole worked at the hospital until 2003, when he retired to Cardinal Bea House. He died in March.
McCulloh said he was disturbed by “the revelation that the Society of Jesus had knowingly sent a man with Poole’s record of sexual abuse to live in their facility within the parameters of our campus, which serves not only as the home of college students, but regularly hosts grade-school children and visitors of all ages, without notification by the province to the university.”
“I had relied upon the Province to inform us of any Jesuit whose history might pose a threat to our students or campus community,” McCulloh said.
Also Tuesday, the Jesuit province announced it will impose a new restriction on access to its document archives because they contain “sensitive personnel records.” Any requests for records now will be vetted by a San Francisco attorney who has defended Catholic institutions from sexual abuse claims for at least two decades, the province said.
On Monday, the Roman Catholic Jesuit province serving much of the eastern United States released the names of Jesuit priests who face “credible or established” accusations of sexual abuse of minors dating to 1950. In a letter, the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus identified five living Jesuits facing offenses that took place in the province and another eight who are dead.