Jesuits in western U.S. to name members credibly accused of abuse

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More names of clergy and religious accused of sex abuse are set to come out this December from a western U.S. province of the Society of Jesus, which says the decision to name the credibly accused is an effort for transparency that supports victims.

The province includes the territory of the former Oregon Province, which declared bankruptcy due to abuse lawsuits in 2009.

"While the vast majority of these offenses occurred in the past, the People of God rightly demand and deserve transparency on the part of Church leadership,' Father Scott Santarosa, S.J., provincial of the U.S.A. West Province of the Society of Jesus, said Nov. 9. "Such transparency is important to support victims in their healing and to rebuild trust in the Church."

He said the province will release the names of Jesuits credibly accused of sex abuse since 1950. The list is presently being compiled and is planned for a Dec. 7 release. The province will also engage an external review to ensure the completeness of the list and to ensure that previous allegations were handled properly.

"If the review identifies additional names of Jesuits with credible allegations of abuse, we will release those names as well," he said.

The Portland, Ore.-based province presently has 484 Jesuits, a spokesperson for the West Province told CNA. Its priests and brothers serve throughout the U.S. and abroad.

Its territory includes the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. The province was created in a 2017 merger of the California and Oregon provinces.

"On behalf of the Society of Jesus, I apologize to victims and their families," Santarosa continued. "There is no greater betrayal of pastoral care than the abuse of a minor by someone with a sacred duty to protect and care for the People of God."

Santarosa said the Church in the U.S. has been "reeling" since the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report. That report named 300 priests from six dioceses who had been credibly accused of sex abuse of 1,000 children and underage teens going back decades.

Saying that the Catholic Church in the U.S. has since undergone "significant reform," he added, "we are now called to deepen that reform by becoming more transparent." He said the Jesuit province hopes that issuing the list of accused clergy and religious and calling for an independent review will offer victims and their families "a step forward in the healing process."

"Since 2002, Jesuits have enforced stringent policies to ensure the safety of minors," Santarosa said. He encouraged anyone who has felt victimized by a Jesuit to contact both the province's victim advocacy coordinator and the appropriate law enforcement and child protection agencies.
"I ask you to pray for the victims of abuse and for our Church," Santarosa concluded. "May we find in this moment the courage to move forward with integrity, transparency and accountability."

Santarosa said his conversations with abuse survivors have been "moments of grace as I encounter people of courage and conviction, people who realize that although the Church has failed them, God never will."

As of 2015, there were 2,325 members of the Society of Jesus in the U.S., a decline from 7,628 in 1970, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate reported in its Fall 2015 newsletter.

In February 2009 the Oregon Province filed for bankruptcy soon after 200 claims of sex abuse of primarily Alaskan children were pending or threatened against the province. Before filing for bankruptcy, the province had settled more than 200 claims for about $84 million, the Seattle Times reported.

At the time, the province had 235 Jesuit priests and brothers across Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington state.

In 2011 the province agreed to pay $166.1 million to about 500 abuse victims, many of whom were Native Americans or Alaska Natives, as part of its bankruptcy settlement. About two dozen of the victims were physically abused, while about 480 suffered sex abuse.

About $48.1 million of the settlement came from the Jesuits themselves, with the rest coming from insurance companies. About $6 million of that settlement was set aside for victims who could come forward in the future.

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Worldwide, the Society of Jesus has about 17,000 priests and brothers worldwide. It is the largest men's religious order in the Church. Their numbers peaked in 1965 at 36,000.

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