The Jesuit Order of the Catholic Church has long operated schools, colleges, and universities in the Northeastern United States. Among these are such recognizable institutions as Xavier, Regis High School, Brooklyn Prep, the Boston College High School, and Fordham University.
In January 2019, the Northeast province of the Jesuits released a list naming 50 individuals in the church credibly accused of sexually abusing minors. The list included priests who worked in Jesuit schools over the past several decades, most of whom are now dead, though 15 such individuals are still alive.
After the list was released, the schools assured students and parents that they now have stricter policies in place, and no longer employ any of the suspected abusers.
Abuse Claims About Religious Order Priests Often Neglected
The Northeast province includes the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and northern New Jersey. This is the last province in the Society of Jesus to release the names of Jesuits credibly accused of abuse. The Midwest province released a similar list naming 65 accused priests in December 2018, as did the Maryland province and the West, Central, and Southern provinces.
The Jesuits are the largest group of religious order priests, making up about one-third of all priests in the U.S. All of the orders—including the Jesuits, Franciscans, and Benedictines—have come under criticism lately because of their lack of action when it comes to allegations of sexual abuse.
According to a report by the Business Insider, victims of abuse by religious order priests are unable to register for any of the Catholic Church compensation funds that have recently been established because the church considers claims against religious order priests to fall under a different set of rules.
The New York Times also recently reported that past claims concerning Catholic religious order priests often fell through the cracks, lost in a maze of bureaucracy. The bishop of the archdiocese did not address these claims, even if the priest worked in the diocese, but instead forwarded them to religious superiors in the respective orders around the country, after which they were allegedly often neglected.
Now that the lists are coming out, it remains to be seen if the religious orders will go any further in their attempts toward transparency and reparation.
List Includes Prominent Priests, Some Working in Schools
The newly released list consists of priests with allegations dating back to 1950, including a former headmaster and president of Fordham Preparatory School, Father O’Brien, who was accused of abuse back in 1993. The Society of Jesus and the Archdiocese of New York later settled a case against him for $25,000.
Also on the list is Father Keith Pecklers, a famed Jesuit scholar who resided in Rome for decades. The Jersey City diocese paid a settlement to a victim who claimed Father Pecklers sexually abused him when he was an adolescent at the St. Paul church. Pecklers continued in the church and has even commented recently on Vatican affairs, including sex abuse scandals.
Father John J. Cecero released a statement in conjunction with the list, writing, “We did not know any best practices to handle these violations many decades ago and regrettably made mistakes along the way.” He apologized for “any of our brothers who have committed crimes of abuse” and pledged to offer support for the victims.
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