The governing body for Jesuit priests in the Northeast Province released a list on Jan. 15 of 50 members of the order that had been credibly accused of sexual abuse from 1950 until 2008.
Of those included in the list, 22 were connected to Massachusetts and 16 of those mentioned were affiliated with Boston College High School. The Northeast Province’s records indicate that only three men who worked at the BC High School are still alive.
One of the three, James Porter, was removed from public ministry in 1998. Later, he served six years in prison in Massachusetts. He was released in 2011, only to be sentenced to another three years in 2018 for similar offenses committed while working at a church in Maine.
The other two, John Acres and Robert Cornigans, worked at BC High in the 1970s and 1980s, during which time they abused students. The Jesuits report that the men left the order in 1995 and 1981 respectively.
The announcement prompted BC High to discontinue a scholarship named after Reverend Leo Pollard, another accused member of the clergy.
Additionally, Boston College University Communications reported that the list included two Jesuits who formerly worked at the university. The reported incidents of sexual abuse did not take place during their time teaching at BC.
The first credibly accused Jesuit, Joseph Fox, taught at BC from 1931 to 1934 and from 1939 to 1943. He died in 1988, but he was accused of sexual misconduct in 2012 due to incidents between 1956 and 1957.
The second Jesuit, Joseph McInnes, taught at BC between 1946 and 1947 before he left the Jesuit order in 1950. McInnes remained a priest, however, and reports surfaced in the 2000s regarding incidents of his sexual misconduct from the 1960s to the 1980s.
Apologizing for these tragic events, Father John Cecero, S.J., leader of the Northeast Province Jesuits, suggested in his letter that the Church and the Society of Jesus have since taken measures to prevent such abuse. He acknowledged, however, that “[c]hanged practices do not erase past history” and declared the list to be evidence of “criminal and sinful failures in the pastoral care of children.”
The Boston Globe reports that the name of at least one credibly accused Jesuit, Reverend Charles Loeffler, did not appear on the list, underscoring the need for independent third parties to investigate further.
While BC has not issued a statement regarding abuse in the Church, the university offered several lectures and panel discussions last semester that sought to address the topic. Still, many students feel that the university has not been sufficiently vocal or active regarding this difficult, sensitive subject.
In December, The Gavel interviewed UGBC senator Czar Sepe, MCAS ’21, about his resolution calling for Father Leahy to condemn the scandals that have plagued the Church and “to promote the healing and protection” of victims.
Following the release of the list of credibly accused priests, The Gavel reached out to Sepe once again for comment. The senator continues to push his proposal, looking to work with campus ministry and possibly secure funding to assist victims of clerical abuse.
Sepe credited Boston College with taking positive steps toward creating a space for understanding and healing, but called for a response from the university that is more oriented towards victims of abuse.
“There’s a crisis of faith because of this very real crisis in Church hierarchy,” said Sepe, urging BC to engage in a conversation that examines the root of the scandal and suggests a path forward.
Czar admitted that he expects some pushback from the university, but he nevertheless hopes to get his message across and eventually meet with members of the administration to “talk about a negotiable response so that both sides feel there’s forward progress.”
“Personally, I believe in my faith as a practicing Catholic, but I also want to make sure that there’s reform and because it’s our faith, we have the duty to clean it up,” said Sepe.