ST. LOUIS • A regional Jesuit province based here became on Friday the latest in a number of Catholic institutions across the country to release lists naming priests credibly accused of sexual abuse.
The Jesuits U.S. Central and Southern Province, which includes Missouri and Southern Illinois, released a list of 42 priests and other ministry officials. They said the abuse allegations went back to 1955.
“The storm that the Church experiences today calls forth from us an unprecedented and yet needed response,” Provincial Ronald Mercier said in a prepared statement. “Silence in the face of the events of recent months cannot be an option.”
Seventeen of those named worked in the St. Louis area, according to the list. Twelve of them worked at St. Louis University High School during their ministry.
The list released Friday includes basic details about each individual’s life and ministerial assignments and estimates what years each alleged incident of abuse happened.
In a letter to alumni Friday, St. Louis University High School President Alan Carruthers said the list included “five Jesuits who were assigned at SLUH during their alleged abuse and seven Jesuits who served at the school during their ministry, although at this time they have not been accused of any abuse at SLUH or in relation to any SLUH students.” More details were not available Friday.
“The history of clergy abuse is an outrage,” Carruthers said. “As a father, an educator, a long-time coach and Catholic, my heart bleeds for those affected by sexual abuse at SLUH and nationwide, regardless of the time or era. The pain is very much with us today, even if the abuse occurred decades ago. Many victims have suffered in silence for a long time, and they need our full support as they seek justice and healing.”
A review of Post-Dispatch reports found that at least one of the Jesuits listed, John “Jack” Campbell, was alleged to have molested a SLUH student.
A total of 13 people had accused Campbell of abusing them by 2003, when the Missouri Province of Jesuits paid a $185,000 settlement to a former student who said Campbell molested him in the 1970s. Campbell, who was in residence at SLUH at the time, was accused of molesting the former student for two years before and after his graduation during counseling appointments at St. Francis Xavier (College) Church at St. Louis University. Campbell died in 2009.
A second priest, Chester Gaiter, was one of three priests accused of sexually abusing a Cardinal Ritter High School student from 1982 to 1985. In 2007, the student reached a $140,000 settlement with the Jesuits of the Missouri Province, the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the Redemptorists Denver Province. Gaiter died in 2010.
The Jesuits, a Catholic order of more than 16,000 priests and brothers serving ministry duties worldwide, operate several high schools and universities, including St. Louis University, and take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
The list was compiled as part of an internal investigation. The province also hired a consulting firm to review its nearly 3,000 personnel files going back to 1955. The Midwest Province released a similar list Friday. Jesuit West is expected to release a similar list later this month.
Survivors of clergy sex abuse, advocates and watchdog groups have compiled their own lists of credibly accused clergy over the years, including a national list maintained by Bishop Accountability. Legal settlements and trials have forced disclosures in a number of dioceses across the country.
The number of Catholic institutions publishing similar lists has grown in recent weeks in response to renewed focus on the sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church after an explosive Pennsylvania grand jury report documented decades of abuses and cover-ups involving hundreds of priests.
In other parts of the country last week, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Omaha (Nebraska) released a list of 38 priests and other clergy who have been credibly accused of sexual misconduct dating back to 1956; West Virginia’s archdiocese released the names of 18 priests or deacons credibly accused of child sexual abuse since 1950; and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe in New Mexico announced it would file for bankruptcy protection after settling numerous abuse claims.
Most of those on the recently released lists are dead. The rest have been removed from ministry.
The release of the lists is an important step but lacks important details, said David Clohessy, who heads the St. Louis chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.
“It’s a very grudging and belated step forward,” he said. “We’re not convinced they are complete. And most of the lists omit the most helpful information: photos, work histories and whereabouts of the living predators.”
The list published on the website of the Diocese of Belleville has 17 names of priests cited in credible accusations from as early as 1993 to as recently as January. All of the priests have been removed from ministry. Nine are no longer living.
Belleville published the list after Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan began investigating sexual abuse cases at each of the state’s six dioceses in September. Madigan said on Nov. 29 that the number of violators “is more extensive than the Church previously has disclosed to the public.”
The list does not include any names of credibly accused priests that were not already known to the public due to past investigations or legal settlements, Clohessy said.
“It’s unimaginable that the only predators ever employed by the Belleville Diocese were these 20 or so priests,” he said. “And that not a single seminarian, brother or lay employee was ever accused.”
The Diocese of Jefferson City published in early November the names of 33 priests or religious brothers credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors. The release followed an internal investigation begun in February.
The list includes 25 priests in the diocese, five members of a religious order and three priests from other areas who served in Jefferson City. Fourteen of those are dead. Only one man on the list was criminally convicted.
The diocese is internally investigating 18 other allegations of abuse made since August.
Priests with ties to St. Louis
SNAP has found dozens of accused priests named in reports in other states or cities that had lived or worked in the St. Louis area, Clohessy said. The number has grown as more credible allegations of abuse come to light in other parts of the country.
The priests listed in the Pennyslvania grand jury report included nine priests who had been sent to Roman Catholic facilities in the St. Louis area over the last 20 years. A spokeswoman with the Archdiocese of St. Louis said the priests never performed sanctioned religious duties here.
In October, a law firm’s independent review of the Archdiocese of San Francisco and the dioceses of Oakland and San Jose in California found more than 200 clergy accused of abuse.
Seven of the named priests had ties to the St. Louis area that were not previously known to the public, according to SNAP. They include four who worked or studied at St. Louis University; three others were sent to a number of facilities run by local Catholic orders that treat or house troubled priests.
“That’s just one metro area,” Clohessy said, referring to California review’s scope. “Imagine if it were the entire state.”
The St. Louis Archdiocese is not among those that has released lists, but its officials have said they invited and were cooperating with a statewide investigation into allegations of clergy sex crimes launched in August by Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley.
In a letter mailed this week to congregants in the archdiocese, Archbishop Robert Carlson apologized for the abuse scandal that has shaken the church and called for more accountability measures.
“I am called to represent the Universal Church in this time and place, and this is the first thing I want to say to the local Church on behalf of all priests and bishops: I apologize to those who have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of the clergy. I apologize to those who suffered from the Church covering up the abuse. I apologize to all people whose faith has been shaken by this behavior.”
The letter accompanied the publication on the archdiocese website of pages devoted to answering questions about how it responds to allegations of abuse and highlighting preventative measures it has taken to prevent future abuses.
“We have put everything in one place that is easily accessible,” Sandra Price, director of the archdiocesan Office of Child and Youth Protection, said in a written statement on the website. “We want to make sure the faithful have accurate information.”
Pope Francis has convened a summit for Feb. 21-24 at the Vatican to address ways to prevent sexual abuse.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.