Victim Advocates Question Security Around Defrocked Jesuit Brethren
Head of Jesuit order says men are under strict supervision at center in Los Gatos.
By Sheila Sanchez January 10, 2011
The Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. One of its defrocked priests was beaten in May 2010. The alleged attacker appeared in court in December and will face a judge on Feb. 7 for a preliminary hearing in a case that will probably go to trial.
Santa Clara County prosecutors are accusing 44-year-old William Lynch of mauling Jesuit priest Jerold Lindner with his fists, said Lynch’s attorney Pat Harris. Lynch has said Lindner sodomized and raped him and his brother as young boys.
Lynch’s supporters, who include members of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), plan a news conference after the hearing at the Santa Clara County Superior Court building on Hedding Street in San Jose and a march in Los Gatos, according to Harris.
The supporters are taking this opportunity to complain about the security measures at the center, which houses Lindner, 65, and five other retired priests or brethren who have faced charges of sexual abuse. They claim the men can leave the compound at any time and that the supervision plans aren’t strict enough.
The two, along with three other men, whom the order will not identify, live in the large Jesuit compound at 300 College Ave. The center includes a retirement home, an assisted-living facility and a skilled nursing infirmary. Here, 75 elderly priests live out the rest of their lives after serving in the elite order of priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church.
The Rev. John P. McGarry, the provincial of the California Province of the Society of Jesus, said the concerns about the five men who live at the center are exaggerated.
McGarry is head supervisor at the center and leader of the 375 Jesuit priests who work in California.
He said none of the men is under investigation right now.
Connor is housed in the center’s skilled nursing facility, is confined to a wheelchair and has severe dementia, McGarry said. “He’s totally incapacitated,” he said. “Better that we take care of them there than having them be out on their own in the community.”
Lindner, said McGarry, is under a strict security plan that prevents him from leaving the center unsupervised.
“He didn’t drive himself to the hospital,” he said, referring to newspaper reports that said he had done so, which triggered victims’ protests.
He explained that nursing staff at the center attended to him, and that either one of the Jesuits in the community or one of the nurses on duty drove him to the hospital. “He wouldn’t have been able to drive … He was badly beaten up. His head was bleeding,” McGarry said.
Dan McNevin, a San Francisco SNAP volunteer, is skeptical and upset the Catholic Church hasn’t found another location to house clergy charged, accused or investigated of abuse. “Why are they living there and not in a more secure location?” said McNevin.
The deep distrust against the order, McNevin said, is caused by numerous incidents that indicate that the Jesuit hierarchy has covered up incidents to protect the order’s reputation.
“A priest who has abused should be behind bars and not living in a retreat center,” said McNevin.
McGarry has an answer to that. “If I had any concern that the men living here, who have allegations against them and who are on safety plans, were a risk to the larger community or a risk for reoffending, I would not have them living here,” he said.
The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office handled the Lynch incident in May because of jurisdiction issues regarding where the center is located. If something were to happen in the center’s parking lot, however, the Los Gatos Monte Sereno police department would step in, said police spokesman Sgt. Kerry Harris. But he said the center has never given the town any problems.
“We’ve never had any issues with them,” Harris said.
For those looking for assurances, McGarry points to the fact that the center has been accredited by the Austin-based Praesidium risk management group, which has established criteria regarding the prevention of and response to sexual abuse of minors by Jesuit authorities. He added that Praesidium had renewed the center’s certification in July 2010.
The five men who live at the center have served at one time or another in Jesuit schools such as Bellarmine College Preparatory, Sacred Heart Nativity School and Most Holy Trinity Parish in San Jose and Santa Clara University in Santa Clara.
McGarry said the order’s policy continues to be to turn over to criminal and civil authorities allegations of priestly misconduct with minors. The province provides pastoral care and counseling to any person that comes forward and makes an allegation of sexual abuse, he said. He said he’s met often with people who have made allegations.
Joey Piscitelli, Northern California director for the Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests, isn’t buying it. “They have aided, abetted, shuffled, protected and promoted known child rapists for decades, and that’s criminal behavior,” he said.
Piscitelli, who says he was molested by a Salesian priest, won a $5 million settlement award against the order after a jury trial in 2006.
Piscitelli has protested outside the center several times, along with John Chevedden, whose brother, Jesuit priest James Chevedden, killed himself when he jumped from the sixth floor of the Santa Clara County Courthouse’s parking garage in 2005.
Chevedden accused the Jesuits of negligence in his brother’s death and in 2007 and settled with the order for $1.6 million.
He said the Lynch case is another example of how victims of abuse suffer for a long time. “It’s disturbing to see how long-lasting and traumatic the abuse is to the victims … that after 35 years it still has a strong impact,” Chevedden said.
What I also found interesting was one of the comments posted under this article:
Fr. Thomas Smolich, promoted to be the # 1 Jesuit in the USA, said a Jesuit priest and resident at the Los Gatos Center, Fr. James Chevedden committed suicide. The Jesuit Order even issued a news release claiming Fr. Chevedden’s suspicious death was a suicide. Fr. Smolich also told Fr. Chevedden’s family that the Jesuit Order would keep Fr. Chevedden’s body.
Fr. Chevedden had earlier reported to Fr. Smolich that he was the victim of Jesuit sex abuse at Los Gatos by a Jesuit Religious Brother, Br. Charles Connor. Br. Connor and Fr. Jerold Lindner were friends. Lindner helped Br. Connor with computers and both sat at the same small meal table.
Ironically or worse, the last Jesuit to see Fr. Chevedden alive was Fr. Lindner, with $2 million paid out in sex abuse settlements. The Jesuit Order did not tell the police that Fr. Lindner was the last Jesuit to see Fr. Chevedden alive. Fr. Lindner was scheduled to testify about his being the last Jesuit to see Fr. Chevedden alive in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Fr. Chevedden’s Dad. The Jesuit Order paid $1.6 million to settle the lawsuit. Thus Fr. Lindner avoided explaining his being last Jesuit to see Fr. Chevedden alive.