O’Brien said he wrote his letter with “a heavy heart but clear mind.” He said he fully cooperated with the province’s investigation process.
“In April, I entered an outpatient or nonresidential treatment program, which many Jesuits over the years have found helpful in living a full, healthy life of service,” the priest added. “In my case, the program is expected to take four to six months.”
“It is important to have friends in your life, as I do now, who can speak honestly when they are concerned about you,” O’Brien’s letter said. “Equally important, no matter the success or positions you achieve in life, everyone needs help at times, and it is okay to ask for help when you need it, and to allow others to care for you.”
On March 15 Sobrato had announced unspecified allegations that O’Brien “exhibited behaviors in adult settings, consisting primarily of conversations, which may be inconsistent with established Jesuit protocols and boundaries.” Sobrato asked any witnesses of inappropriate behavior to contact the Jesuits’ provincial office.
In his May letter to the university community, O’Brien said his extended absence would not serve the university well as the coronavirus pandemic ends. His resignation would allow the university board to begin the search for a successor, he said. He would not know whether or how he can return until the conclusion of the treatment program, he added.
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While Father Santarosa, the Jesuit provincial, expects that O’Brien will be able to return to priestly ministry, it will not be as president, said O’Brien.
“As together we addressed challenges during the pandemic and in our movements to greater racial justice, I have loved my service here, primarily because of the people,” he said. “Thank you for your company and your support, especially when the days and decisions were hard. I trust that God will use my labor here for good, even when I fell short of my or your expectations.”
The university trustees have named Lisa Kloppenberg as acting president. She was named interim university provost in June 2019 and has served as university provost and vice president for academic affairs since February 2020. Previously, she served as dean of the Santa Clara University School of Law and as dean and professor of law at the University of Dayton School of Law in Ohio.