University Investigates Alleged Molester
By Adrien Jarvis
September 20, 2012
News broke last week that a former 15-year Jesuit employee of LMU, Brother William Farrington, S.J., had been accused of sexual misconduct at two schools where he previously worked. The University has since launched an investigation into Farrington’s time at LMU, according to President David W. Burcham. So far, no similar allegations have been made against him during his tenure at the University.
“As of now, I can say confidently that … there’s no evidence of any complaint or wrongdoing while he was here – not even rumors,” said Burcham.
However, Northwest Regional Director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) Joey Piscitelli believes that alleged victims at LMU will come forward.
“He was in a position [at LMU] in admissions to actually talk to people who are under the age of 18. … For him to be there for that long, and for him to be a serial molester, the chance that he didn’t molest somebody there, I think, is very little,” said Piscitelli. He added that since the first alleged victim from Farrington’s former place of employment, Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose, Calif. came forward on Sept. 11, he has received five calls from others claiming sexual misconduct by Farrington.
“Their stories range from nude photographs taken in the showers and other kinds of sexual abuse,” said Piscitelli, who mentioned that according to the victims he spoke with, Farrington “carries a camera all the time.”
He added, “I think that’s the common thing he did on the swim team – taking pictures of boys in their bathing suits and then taking them off in the locker room.”
As reported in the Sept. 17 Loyolan article “Jesuit accused of sexual molestation spent 15 years working at LMU,” Farrington worked in what is now Enrollment Management at LMU from 1987 until 2002. Previously, he worked at two schools in Northern California: Bellarmine College Preparatory as a dormitory supervisor and a swim and dive coach and at Jesuit High School in Carmichael, Calif. as a teacher and swim and dive coach. Both school presidents have called the sexual misconduct claims against Farrington “credible,” and each sent a letter to alumni, urging any who may have something to report about Farrington to come forward.
When the allegations against Farrington first came to light and the previous Loyolan article was published, Burcham was traveling and could not be reached for comment. LMU’s Vice President for Communications and Government Relations Kathleen Flanagan was quoted as saying, “As far as I know, there was nothing that happened at LMU, so there would be no reason to [send a letter to alumni].”
Since that initial report the University’s response has been revised.
“Things have changed pretty dramatically,” Burcham told the Loyolan. “When I learned about it, I directed that an investigation be undertaken and that we try to discover every fact that we can about Brother Farrington’s tenure here at LMU – what was known by whom, and when, and the circumstances of his departure. That investigation is ongoing.”
Two lawyers are conducting the investigation and, as of Loyolan deadline, the lawyers had interviewed 17 people about Farrington with plans to interview more. Both the provincial and the then-rector of the LMU Jesuit community – who “most likely, although there’s no knowledge, was told of the reason for the assignment” – are now deceased, according to Burcham.
He also said that so far in the investigation, neither the Jesuits of the California Province nor the University have located any personnel files on Farrington. However, the investigation has uncovered that Farrington was removed from LMU’s campus in 2002 after the then-California provincial received a complaint from one of Jesuit High School’s alleged victims, according to Burcham. The Loyolan’s multiple requests for comment from the Jesuits of the California Province spokesperson, Patrick Walsh, have not been returned.
Farrington now resides in the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center, a facility for elderly Jesuits in Los Gatos, Calif. He cannot leave the center without an escort, and his “restrictions are reviewed annually by a lay advisory board that includes local medical professionals, law enforcement and business leaders,” according to the Sept. 12 Mercury News article, “Jesuit in Bellarmine abuse case also accused of misconduct at Sacramento school.”
Piscitelli traveled to Los Gatos following the first alleged victim’s report about Farrington to alert the community. According to Piscitelli, the community did not know about the allegations against Farrington.
“When I went to protest, I went to the senior center, which is next door to the park, and the seniors were saying he goes in the park all the time unsupervised,” said Piscitelli. “He’s loose and unsupervised, even though they say he’s supervised … and the community doesn’t know. There are kids all over the place.”
Burcham emphasized that the process of hiring Jesuits on campus is currently very different compared to the way it was when Farrington was brought to the University’s campus.
“It has been affected by all that has transpired with the sexual abuse scandal affecting the Church, and so there’s a lot of protocols in place now that wouldn’t be in place then,” said Burcham.
He added, “What we have learned is in 1987 when Brother Farrington was assigned to LMU, no one advised or explained to LMU why the assignment was occurring. … But, I emphasize, [the investigation is] ongoing. … When it’s at a comfortable stage, and I assume that might be within a week, I am going to send a letter to the 15 years of students in that time period and explain what we know.”
After the letter is sent, the response will determine the next direction the University will take with the investigation.
“If it turns out that we get claims that we deem to be credible, we’re going to be doing a whole lot more,” said Burcham. “I hope we don’t, but obviously, on these kinds of matters, you never know.”