Sins of the Fathers
December 15, 2018
Listeners should know that this episode looks at how the Catholic Church
handled cases of children who were sexually abused by Jesuit priests.
The show includes descriptions of abuse and predatory behavior and is not a story for all listeners.
The host gives a listening advisory at the top of each segment.
In Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, the Catholic Church had a problem with Jesuit priests sexually abusing children. The churchís first solution was to send the priests to remote Native villages, but there, they continued to abuse. So the church tried something else: hiding them in plain sight.
Reported by Emily Schwing at the Northwest News Network, with Revealís Michael Corey and Katharine Mieszkowski.
Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The John S. And James L. Knight Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.
Reveal transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. Please be aware that the official record for Reveal's radio stories is the audio.
Al Letson: From the Center For Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal, I'm Al Letson.
Al Letson: So about this time last year, Emily Shwain of the Northwest News Network told us about this radio station she used to work at. She said it had a lot of skeletons in the closet, and Emily was trying to figure it all out.
Emily Shwain: Yeah, it was in Nome, Alaska. Way out on the Bering Sea coast. And you can only get there by airplane. I used to be the news director at the radio station there, KNOM. And it has this super cheesy endearing sound.
Speaker 3: Yours, [inaudible] in Alaska. KNOM.
Al Letson: I love that. I don't think it's cheesy. I think it's perfect. I'm going to talk to J Breezy about changing the Reveal theme song. Anyway, what did you do out there?
Emily Shwain: I spent most of my time reporting on things like subsistence hunting for bearded seal. The Anupiat people there call it Ugruk. And of course, that 1,000 mile sled dog race, the Iditarod, the finish line is in Nome.
Emily Shwain: A northerly head wind blew between 30 and 40 miles per hour and scoured the barren tundra along the Bering Sea coast as Brent Sas used his ski pole to help his dog team glide across the icy trail Takoiyuk.
Brent Sas: Yeah, I didn't stop kicking or ski poling or kneeling.
Al Letson: Okay so, I've been on a dog sled in Alaska in February and it was so cold. It was thrilling. But you know, I'm a Florida boy. I don't even like to think about it. So Emily, what does all this have to do with the skeletons in the closet?
Emily Shwain: Okay, so it all had to do with this guy who founded KNOM. It's a Catholic radio station, and it was started by a Jesuit priest, James Pool, back in 1971. He used the station as a studio pulpit.
James Pool: You know, it's not a disgrace to make mistakes and fall. All men and women, old and young, do just that. But after falling, just to lay there and cry, that is a mistake. Rise, start over. This time naked.
Emily Shwain: I heard about James Pool's mistakes while I was working at KNOM. But I was never given any details. A year after I left Nome, I saw this social media post one day and it mentioned something about where the church was hiding him. That kicked off my search through records about Jesuit missions in Alaska. First, I needed to learn more about the Jesuit order. So I called this guy, Patrick Wahl.
Patrick Wahl: Yeah, becoming Jesuit is a very rigorous process. They sometimes are referred to as the you know, storm troopers of the Roman Catholic Church. They answer only to the pope. And they have the most rigorous training program.
Al Letson: So it sounds like Patrick knows a lot about the Catholic Church.
Emily Shwain: He does. And it's from first hand experience. He used to be a Benedictine Monk and an ordained priest. He's no longer with the church, but he knows how to navigate his way though piles of records. Some in Latin.
Emily Shwain: It's really surprising to me how meticulous they are about keeping notes and dating their signatures.
Patrick Wahl: Yep. All you have to do is a little grunt work. That's what I'm saying. This is not rocket science.
Al Letson: Emily did a lot of grunt work. She spent the past year and a half digging through church records and court documents. She tracked down priests and people who knew them, all to find those skeletons in the closet. And what she uncovered is a new chapter in the Catholic Church's continuing story of sexual abuse. It takes us to some of the most isolated corners of the country: native communities in Alaska and the Northwest. We'll hear from the accused and the Jesuit leaders who move them around. Along the way, Emily discovers how the church used a college campus to hide priests including Father Pool, in plain sight.
Emily Shwain: I've only seen photos of James Pool, and in all of them, he has a broad constant smile and dark rimmed glasses. People remember him as handsome. And starting KNOM was his life's dream.
James Pool: The radio station is a ministry. It's also an educational vehicle to try to bring across to the people ideas that will help them to help themselves to move forward in what is a pretty difficult situation up here of one culture that has been overtaken and kind of swamped by another culture. So we're in there trying to help them hold again.
Emily Shwain: KNOM is a cozy place. It looks like a house and it's always warm inside, which means a lot in the winter in Nome. You can spot the station from almost anywhere in town because of a giant electric star attached to the antenna that reaches above the roof. A friend of mine who also worked there said if I wanted to learn the real story of James Pool, I should talk to a woman named Elsie Boudreau. A few weeks later, Elsie told me she'd be happy to talk.
Elsie Boudreau: I knew on some level like I was waiting for you to come, because there's still more of a story to tell. I don't know. I was just waiting for you. I don't know how else to say it.
Emily Shwain: Long before he founded KNOM, James Pool was the priest where Elsie grew up, St. Mary's. It's a tiny native village near the Yukon River. The Jesuits built a boarding school nearby and an orphanage in the 1900s. And the church was part of everyday life for kids like Elsie.
Elsie Boudreau: So you have to understand that I grew up Catholic. And I loved everything about being Catholic. I was a devout Catholic. I went to Catholic High School, Catholic College, and I grew up believing almost like I was more Catholic than I was Upic. And they had a lot of power in our village, which is true for a lot of the villages in Alaska.
Emily Shwain: When Elsie was a kid, she traveled to Nome in the summer to stay with her sister in Florence, who's 17 years older. Elsie would babysit her niece and nephew, and volunteer at KNOM.
Elsie Boudreau: I remember doing that show with Father Pool.
Emily Shwain: Like what do you remember about that?
Elsie Boudreau: Well, I remember being in KNOM and there was no one else in the building, it was just him and I-
Florence Bush: [crosstalk] Saturdays-
Elsie Boudreau: On Saturdays, yeah.
Florence Bush: [inaudible] He was usually alone.
Al Letson: That's Elsie's sister, Florence Bush. She also worked at the station and hosted the request show. And Elsie says for a kid like her, working at KNOM was a big deal.
Elsie Boudreau: So I was able to say some things on the radio, which I thought was really cool. You know? But then, like when songs are playing, you know he would kiss me and we would kiss and stuff. So it was kind of weird.
Emily Shwain: How old were you?
Elsie Boudreau: I don't know. 11? 12? I don't know.
Emily Shwain: I asked Florence if she knew anything about that.
Florence Bush: No. I mean, I saw it. I mean, he did the same thing with me. Like he would kiss and he would try to French kiss. And I would just like, "What the heck are you trying to do?" You know? That's not supposed to be in there, at all. And he would stop. But see, I knew him since I was six years old.
Emily Shwain: For a long time, Elsie was too ashamed to talk about what James Pool did to her. Decades later she filed a civil lawsuit against him and the regional Jesuit order. She accused him of molesting and fondling her. She couldn't press criminal charges, because the statue of limitations in Alaska at the time wouldn't allow for it.
Speaker 9: Father, you knew it was wrong for other people to be doing the types of sexual acts that you were doing with this young women. Correct?
James Pool: Correct.
Emily Shwain: Elsie's lawyer interviewed James Pool in this deposition tape from 2005.
Speaker 9: Why didn't you think it was wrong for you?
James Pool: Pure delusion.
Speaker 9: Okay. You said that, what do you mean by that? Tell me how that manifested itself?
James Pool: I figured that short of intercourse, it was all right.
Speaker 9: Okay. I mean, was there a theological justification in your mind for it? Or was there a secular justification? Was there some sort of process that you went through where you justified it? How did that work?
James Pool: I thought I was bringing love into the life of other persons.
Speaker 9: By engaging in sexual acts with them?
James Pool: By being intimate.
Speaker 9: And what's your definition of intimacy?
James Pool: Everything short of intercourse.
Patrick Wahl: He was a such a scary guy.
Emily Shwain: This is Patrick Wahl again. He's that former Catholic priest we met earlier. He was in the room when James Pool gave his deposition.
Patrick Wahl: It was like sitting down with a major felon with a multi felony murder thing going on. And when we all got done, we were just so, we all went and had a martini afterwards. It was just the most out of body experience.
Emily Shwain: Why? Why? What was scary about it?
Patrick Wahl: He declared himself the greatest lover of the world.
Emily Shwain: Patrick left the priesthood because of stories like Elsie's. For years he said, the church used him as a fixer. They'd send him into parishes where a priest was removed because of credible accusations of sexual abuse. His assignments were mostly in the Midwest, and his job was to smooth things over with victims and families.
Patrick Wahl: Oh, when the families come in that is so painful.
Emily Shwain: Your eyes are just huge like dinner plates in talking about this.
Patrick Wahl: Because I go back there immediately. I mean, I can feel being there when it happened. They've got a new younger priest who they think gets it. Who they think that can then give them some kind of pastoral and human response. And that pain is so palpable at that point. It's oozing out of them. They're breaking down right in front of you.
Emily Shwain: After years of being a fixer, Patrick quit the church in disgust and switched sides. Now he works for a law firm in California as an advocate for victims of clergy sex abuse. That's how he knows Elsie. And Elsie isn't Father Pool's only victim. There are at least 20 others according to her lawyer. James Pool never admitted to having sex with anyone. But another Alaskan native woman says he got her pregnant when she was a teenager. According to church documents and other records, Pool convinced her to have an abortion. Court documents also show he convinced his victim to accuse her own father of rape. Her father went to prison, and Pool wasn't the only Jesuit priest accused of molesting Native kids and young women in Western Alaska.
Patrick Wahl: The villages are basically isolated from months out of the year, before modern transportation. Those kids had nowhere to go. That's why we see a wholesale slaughter of generations by the Jesuits in Alaska.
Emily Shwain: That's really strong language. Wholesale slaughter of children at the hands of the Catholic Church is incredibly strong language.
Patrick Wahl: That's what the data supports.
Emily Shwain: Elsie's village, St. Mary's, only has about 500 people, but between 1927 and 1998, at least 15 priests accused of sexual abuse served there. Patrick says isolated Native communities in Alaska and Indian reservations in the Northwest were used as dumping grounds for problem Jesuits. We found accused Jesuits in more than 100 of those communities.
Patrick Wahl: In my experience, both Yupik and Athabaskans are extremely welcoming. And that is a weakness that a perpetrator can exploit really easily. Because they're going to trust that person. There was no warning from the Jesuit provincials. There was no warning from the Jesuit bishops at Fairbanks. There was never any warning to them.
Emily Shwain: Some Jesuits didn't seem to view Native people as fully human. I found a letter from a Jesuit leader that describes Alaska natives as simple minded. And another letter says they are people not advanced enough to give impartial and true testimony. Elsie Boudreau sees the sexual abuse as part of the Church's attempt to erase Native culture and spirituality.
Elsie Boudreau: The whole premise behind the Catholic Church and their mission with Native people, with indigenous people, was to strip them of their identity. And so sexual abuse was one way. I think it's intentional when you have an institution that is aware of problem priests, perpetrator priests, and move them to places where they believe the people are less than, where they believe the people there would not speak out. Like I can forgive you know, one perpetrator. But to move to an understanding that it was the institution, the Catholic Church that operated in a way that devalued Urupik people, indigenous people. That's unforgivable.
Al Letson: Elsie was the first Alaska native victim to go public with her identity and the identity of her abuser. In 2005, she settled a lawsuit against the Jesuits for a million dollars. Emily found letters that showed Church officials received complaints about James Pool's behavior at least eight years before Elsie Boudreau was even born. When we come back, how the Church responded to those complaints. Emily follows a paper trail that shows how James Pool and other accused priests were shuffled around for decades. That's next on Reveal. From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX.
Al Letson: From the Center for Investigative Reporting, and PRX, this is Reveal. I'm Al Letson. Today's show is about a topic that's not appropriate for everyone. It's the story of Jesuit priests accused of sexual abuse and how the Catholic Church shuffled them around. Before the break, Emily Shwain with Northwest News Network introduced us to Elsie Boudreau, who was abused when she was a child by a priest named James Pool. He admitted it under oath. Emily, what happened to James Pool?
Emily Shwain: Well the short story is not much. He wasn't tried in a criminal court and he didn't have to register as a sex offender. Decades of Church correspondence show very little response to concerns about his conduct while he was serving in Alaskan native communities.
Al Letson: So it sounds like what you're saying is, people in leadership knew about James Pool?
Emily Shwain: Yes. One of the first letters about Pool is from 1960. That's when another Jesuit priest, Segundo Lorente, raised questions about how Pool was behaving with girls at the school outside St. Mary's village. That's where Elsie is from. Part of Lorente's job was to watch over what was happening at St. Mary's, so he writes this letter to the priest in charge of finances for the Jesuit's Alaska missions. And here's what it says: "Some people have come to the conclusion that Father Pool has a fixation on sex. An obsession. Some sort of mental aberration that makes him see sex everywhere." Some think that maybe he's projecting outwardly what's eating him inwardly.
Al Letson: So it sounds like Segundo really had James Pool pegged.
Emily Shwain: He did. And many more letters tell the same story. And this is where it gets more graphic. The letters say James Pool spent hours sitting in his room alone with young girls asking them about sex and masturbation. One letter details how he went into the girls' dormitory and moved their beds around in his own arrangement. And Segundo Lorente was writing these letters to higher up in the church. Eventually, the information in those letters made it to the superior general in Rome. The man in charge of the entire Jesuit order.
Al Letson: Okay, so why is that such a big deal?
Emily Shwain: Well, it tells us that knowledge of what James Pool was doing went all the way to the top, to Rome. But there's also something truly bizarre about all of this correspondence, Al.
Al Letson: What's that?
Emily Shwain: Segundo Lorente, he was also accused of sexual abuse and so was the priest in Alaska he sent that first letter to. I found lots of cases of whistleblower letters exchanged between Jesuits who were also accused themselves.
Al Letson: So then, what happened to all these guys?
Emily Shwain: Well, these same Jesuit letters gave me a few clues. I collected at least 100. I found a memo from 1948 that said that Jesuits who'd committed sexual acts should be removed or resign. But that's not what happened. Other letters show that priests got moved from one native community to another. It's almost like a Jesuit version of a merry go round. After people in Elsie's village started complaining about James Pool, he was sent to an all boys high school in Portland, Oregon. But a year after that, he wen right back to another far removed Native community in Alaska. And this happened over and over again with Jesuit priests for decades.
Al Letson: And did they ever get off the merry go round?
Emily Shwain: Well that's what I wanted to find out too. And to do that, I went to a library to flip through an official Catholic directory. It's this giant maroon book bigger than a shoebox and a lot heavier. It lists every priest in the United States. I've been tipped off about where James Pool might be, so I turn to a page in Washington State.
Emily Shwain: And then it says Spokane Religious Community and the address. It lists out all the names of who lives there.
Emily Shwain: What I discovered is that when the merry go round finally stopped, James Pool wound up at a prominent Jesuit university with a well known law school and an even better known basketball team, Gonzaga University in downtown Spokane, Washington. Why would the church put a priest accused of sexual abusing young women so close to students? I went back to that 2005 deposition tape from Elsie Boudreau's civil case. Her lawyer had the same question for Father Pool.
Speaker 9: So you can use facilities on the campus without problems, right?
James Pool: Library, right.
Speaker 9: And you go by yourself?
James Pool: Yeah.
Speaker 9: Okay.
Emily Shwain: When Father Pool was sent to Gonzaga, he was supposed to be constantly supervised and chaperoned. That's according to the rules the Jesuits came up with to deal with priests accused of sexual abuse. But that constant monitoring didn't happen.
Speaker 9: Have you been interviewed by any students who are doing research on Alaska since you got to Regis community?
James Pool: Yes, one.
Speaker 9: And who was that?
James Pool: I haven't the slightest idea.
Speaker 9: Okay. A man or a woman?
James Pool: A woman.
Speaker 9: And she is a student at Gonzaga?
James Pool: Yes.
Speaker 9: Okay. And who was present when she interviewed you?
James Pool: Uh, nobody. It was in the front living room.
Emily Shwain: I started taking a closer look at this house where Father Pool was living. It's called the Cardinal Baya house, also known as the Regis community. It's a home for retired priests. I went back to what I found in the official Catholic directory and cross referenced it with lists of predator from a national database. Father Pool wasn't the only one who lived at this house. 19 other priests accused of sexual abuse lived there going back as far as 1986. Most of them had previously worked in Native communities.
Al Letson: Okay, so what you're saying is 20 priests were moved away and stashed at this retirement community with other Jesuits. And it's in the middle of a college campus?
Emily Shwain: Yeah. And so as I kept digging, I started to notice a pattern. After these Jesuits got too old for the church to shuffle them around, they'd send them to live out their days at this retirement home. And their final assignment? Praying for the church and society.
Al Letson: Earlier you said that the Jesuits had a rule in place that these priests were supposed to be under constant supervision. Father Pool wasn't, but what about the others?
Emily Shwain: Yeah. They weren't either. I found a police report from 2009 that says residents at this home didn't have to sign in or out. In that same year, students profiled the house as part of a class project. And they interviewed another Jesuit, James Jacobsen. In both legal documents and a deposition, Jacobsen admits to using church funds to solicit sex from prostitutes in Alaska in the 1970s and 80s. And DNA testing shows he fathered children with several Alaskan Native women.
Al Letson: So the Jesuits knew about these priests, but what about Gonzaga University? What did they know?
Emily Shwain: So that is the million dollar question. And I tried to ask Gonzaga University president Dane McCullough. But he turned down my request for an interview three times. Instead, Gonzaga's spokesman pointed me to a memo McCullough sent to faculty and staff this fall. It says: "We must continuously work at educating ourselves and each other about the various expressions of bias, harassment, and abuse and hold those who are found to have violated our commitments accountable."
Emily Shwain: Both the Jesuit order and Gonzaga have argued that the home is not on campus. The home is owned by the Jesuits, not the university. And Gonzaga doesn't make decisions about who lives there. But it's on the official campus map. And it's listed in the campus directory.
Al Letson: So Emily, you're saying these priests, who have been accused of raping and abusing kids and young women, was sent to live on a college campus surrounded by young people?
Emily Shwain: That is exactly what I am telling you Al. They went to basketball games, they used the library, and they had healthcare services at the Cardinal Baya house. Now I should say that I haven't found evidence that the accused priests offended or abused anyone after they moved into the home. Still, I wanted to check it out. So I went there one day with Reveal's data editor Michael Corey. He had been helping me dig into those records I mentioned.
Emily Shwain: Ring the bell.
Michael Corey: Yep, there we go.
Emily Shwain: As we wait, a steady stream of students walks right in front of this building. It's pretty nondescript. Red brick, square windows, and it's not really a house. It's more like a small office building.
Emily Shwain: Ring the bell again.
Emily Shwain: Finally, two priests, Father Mac Saleva and Father Jim Torrens answer the door.
Speaker 11: Come on in.
Emily Shwain: Okay.
Emily Shwain: And Mike and I are met with a warm welcome.
Speaker 11: Would you like a cup of coffee or something like that?
Emily Shwain: I'm fine, thank you for the offer though.
Michael Corey: It's okay.
Emily Shwain: Inside a long hallway gives way to an expansive living room. The same one where James Pool said he was interviewed by a female Gonzaga University student. Father Saleva and Torrens invite Michael and me to sit on a well worn couch and easy chairs with floral upholstery. Another Jesuit, Father Frank Case seems curious. So he joins the conversation. At first only for a moment, but he stays standing for more than an hour. Michael asks Father Case about the alleged abusers who've lived here over the years.
Michael Corey: Do you have an opinion as to why these things happened in the Church or in the order?
Frank Case: A lot of the scandal was that people were covering up the abuse.
Emily Shwain: Which people do you mean?
Frank Case: The people in charge.
Michael Corey: Like the bishops?
Frank Case: The bishops. And one of the reasons I think for that is that they would have to, if a guy was having trouble, sexual addiction or like alcohol addiction or anything, they'd send them off to one of these rehab programs. And then they would come back with a Good Housekeeping seal of approval from some psychologist saying that he's ready to be reassigned to ministry. And you know, bishops are not psychological experts.
Emily Shwain: Still, to be a Jesuit is to join brotherhood.
Frank Case: One of the things I do, I want to reach out to the perpetrator, to the person, and say, "You're still our brother. We want to support you as a brother Jesuit for as long as we can." They know they've done wrong, so you don't have to preach at them.
Emily Shwain: Father Aleva chimes in.
Father Aleva: I think we also, you know, would pray for the victims.
Frank Case: Yeah, we do that. Yeah.
Father Aleva: Whoever they are.
Emily Shwain: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I'm glad you mentioned that. I was going to ask you. Like do you think that they get the same kinds of support that a Jesuit, like you said, you know, they're still your brother, would get?
Frank Case: I don't know. Because that depends on their own families. Usually the provincial will make contact with them. And try to be supportive and get them psychological help as needed.
Emily Shwain: Father Case told us he knew James Pool. The priest who molested Elsie Boudreau. He also told us he used to be the provincial here. He was in charge of the Jesuits in Alaska and the Northwest. What he didn't tell us is that while he was provincial, in 1989, he wrote a letter endorsing James Pool. Case called him a Jesuit priest in very good standing. This was right after Pool left Alaska because too many accusations piled up. A Gonzaga spokesperson told us that Case didn't know about the accusations against Pool when he wrote that letter. I also found out Father Case used to serve in high ranking roles for the Jesuit order in Rome. Today, he has deep connections at Gonzaga. He's vice president of the university and he sits on the bench as the chaplain of the Bulldogs, Gonzaga's beloved basketball team.
Emily Shwain: In short, he's a big deal. I now know how the Jesuits treated accused priests. Even priests who admitted to sexual abuse. But I wanted to figure out how Jesuit higher ups treated Elsie Boudreau, after she decided to speak up about what happened to her at the radio station in Nome.
Elsie Boudreau: We were like the sheep, and they're the shepard. And they're not responding to their flock in a responsible way. And I became like a liability to them.
Emily Shwain: She wrote a letter to the bishop in Alaska more than 20 years after James Pool abused her. She says the bishop invited her to a meeting.
Elsie Boudreau: It took like an hour and a half to even get him to understand what it was like for me to come forward. Not to be a victim, but what it was like for me to come forward. He didn't get it. And it became very clear to me that he did not care about what happened to me. He didn't understand the effects of the abuse. He didn't acknowledge that little girl that was hurt and say, "I'm sorry this happened to you. What can I do?"
Emily Shwain: We don't know of any accused priests that live at Cardinal Baya house anymore. Some were moved again, this time to a retirement home in California that has more services to the elderly. As for the rest of them-
Michael Corey: I found James Pool. He's on the wall.
Emily Shwain: He is. Yeah, you're right. There he is. Mike and I stand in the middle of a Jesuit cemetery on a hillside about 20 minutes outside Spokane. It's a patch of grass dotted by simple white marble headstones and a wall filled with urns. James Pool is buried here, and he's surrounded by his Jesuit brothers.
Emily Shwain: I'm just going to look here. Okay, I'm in assignments. Gonzaga priest assignments. Here we go.
Emily Shwain: I pull out my phone to find our list of priests. In our research, Mike and I found 92 accused Jesuits who worked in the Oregon province.
Emily Shwain: John P. Leary.
Michael Corey: Who was he again?
Emily Shwain: Former president of Gonzaga. McNeil. He's on our list. Bernard F. McNeil. Coglan. Doyle. Dominick Doyle. He was not a good dude. Francis Duffy. Yeah, it's interesting when you look, you can see it on the list. But then you start walking through the cemetery and they all sort of become the same-
Michael Corey: [crosstalk] Yeah, just like they're all here.
Emily Shwain: Yeah, they're all here.
Emily Shwain: Mike and I figured out that 55 of the nearly 650 Jesuits buried here were accused of sexual abuse. That's 8%.
Emily Shwain: Like you could spend all day here being like check, check, check.
Emily Shwain: After James Pool was sent to Gonzaga, he was assigned a job reserved for priests who get in serious trouble, tending the cemetery. This very cemetery. And it's a lonely spot, almost silent. Except around noon, when you can hear the sound of children playing.
Emily Shwain: So if you go through that iron gate, and you just go down that road behind the trees there, I mean you can see the top of the school through the trees. That's it. I mean that's a K-12 school and you can walk right up to it.
Emily Shwain: And that's exactly what Mike and I decide to do.
Emily Shwain: There's a woman in a full habit watching these kids play soccer. And they're all in their plaid skirts and navy blue sweaters.
Michael Corey: And it's like a beautiful fall day.
Emily Shwain: And the little boys have little sweater vests on. Recess. Best class of the day.
Al Letson: The Jesuits buried in that cemetery were accused of abusing hundreds of native children. Emily and Mike found that 80% of accused Jesuits in Alaska and the Northwest worked in Native American communities at some point in their careers. Like Father Pool, all of these Jesuits are shuffled around and protected by the church. Emily wants to know why. So she goes straight to the top. And to her surprise, Jesuit leadership agrees to talk.
Patrick Wahl: This is not a distraction from our work. This is our work in this generation, is to reconcile the sins of our past.
Al Letson: That's next on Reveal, from the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX.
Al Letson: From the Center of Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I'm Al Letson. I'm back with reporter Emily Shwain of Northwest News Network. She spent more than a year and a half piecing together a story of how the Jesuits in the order of the Catholic Church covered up decades of sexual abuse in indigenous communities all over Alaska and the Northwest.
Al Letson: Emily, this isn't the only part of the country where Jesuit priests were abusing young people, is it?
Emily Shwain: Well we looked into that. And in what the Jesuits used to call the Oregon province, Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho and Alaska, in this region there are more than three times the number of accused Jesuit priests compared to the average for other parts of the US.
Al Letson: Three times as many? Why are these numbers so high in the Oregon province?
Emily Shwain: You know, we're still looking into that. I can tell you hundreds of civil lawsuits claiming sexual abuse against priests were filed against the Jesuits in the province in the early 2000s. The vast majority of those cases were settled, and there were so many of them that in 2009, the entire Oregon province filed for bankruptcy. It's the third largest settlement in Catholic Church history, and altogether they paid out $166 million.
Al Letson: Emily, do you know what the Jesuits have to say about all this?
Emily Shwain: Well, I wanted to talk to the provincial. He's the priest who was in charge of the Oregon province during this crucial time in the early 2000s. That's when hundreds of lawsuits were filed for crimes that had been committed decades before. At his office in downtown Seattle, John Whitney welcomes me with a handshake and a wide smile.
John Whitney: Can I offer you some coffee or anything?
Emily Shwain: Sure, that would be great.
John Whitney: Okay.
Emily Shwain: Father Whitney is now the parish priest at St. Joseph's parish. His office is on the second floor of a creaky old building in the heart of a hectic neighborhood. It smells like incense, holy water, and dust and his shelves are crammed with philosophy books.
Emily Shwain: He has Kant, Hegel, Descartes, Aristotle's Metaphysics, Plato.
Emily Shwain: And there's a model of the Last Supper made out of Lego bricks on one of the shelves.
Emily Shwain: Oh my god, look. Jesus is holding a baguette.
John Whitney: A baguette of bread, yes. French Jesus.
Emily Shwain: Whitney was appointed to lead the Oregon province in 2002, only a year after he'd taken his final vows as a Jesuit. He's in his late 50s now.
John Whitney: The nature of becoming a provincial is they throw you in the deep end of the pool, and somehow you're supposed to swim. I mean there's a lot of things. Finances, other things that hadn't necessarily been prepared for.
Emily Shwain: One of the first lawsuits Whitney had to deal with is Elsie Boudreau's. Long before he was provincial, Whitney went to Alaska in the 70s as a volunteer. He spent time in St. Mary's, the same village where Elsie grew up and where Father James Pool was first accused of sexual abuse. Whitney says he didn't know about any of that until decades later. He says he signed paperwork to place up to a dozen accused priests in Cardinal Baya house at Gonzaga University, to live alongside James Pool.
John Whitney: We kept him in the Jesuits intentionally, because my belief was even at his age, which was in the 80s at that point, he had been in an apartment in Spokane, he would still have offended someone.
Emily Shwain: But why put him on or next to, depending on who you ask, a college campus?
John Whitney: That was really the only place that we had to put him that I thought he could be monitored safely.
Emily Shwain: Did you notify Gonzaga University about James Pool and that he would be living in the Cardinal Baya house?
John Whitney: I believe we did, but I don't know. I'm not certain of that particular notification.
Emily Shwain: What about the police department? The Spokane police department?
John Whitney: I know we didn't, I'm pretty sure we didn't do that. I don't think we did. And again, there wasn't the registration of a sex offender, because he'd never been convicted of a sex offense, so I don't think we did that.
Emily Shwain: But you are convinced that he did commit crimes?
John Whitney: I am convinced he did commit crimes. Yes.
Emily Shwain: So if he committed crimes, why not tell the police department that acts as law enforcement for Gonzaga University that somebody who committed crimes, but because of the statute of limitations couldn't be prosecuted for those crimes, was living on or next door to a college campus with possible access to his target victim population?
John Whitney: I think we were in new territory, and I was looking for answers for how to restrict him, and I honestly did not think that the police would have a role in that, that they would be, now I think in hindsight perhaps that would have been a wise thing to do.
Emily Shwain: James Pool was deposed in 2005 as part of Elsie Boudreau's case. And an attorney asked him quote: "Has anybody from your order looked at you and said-"
John Whitney: What you're doing was a mortal sin, it was wrong, you inflicted tremendous pain and harm, you destroyed lives, and you hurt countless women and girls.
Emily Shwain: James Pool said yes, and then when they asked him who said that to him, he said that it was you.
Speaker 9: Has anybody ever said that to you?
James Pool: Yeah.
Speaker 9: Who?
James Pool: Whitney.
Speaker 9: Father Whitney said that?
James Pool: Yeah.
Emily Shwain: Is that true?
John Whitney: I don't know if those were the exact words, but yes I did.
Emily Shwain: A quote like that doesn't lead me to believe that there was a whole lot of love lost between the two of you.
John Whitney: My mission as provincial is to love the men as a person, as an individual, and honestly, in my own sinfulness, I found him kind of creepy.
Emily Shwain: Still, Father Whitney signed off on allowing men like Pool to go back to Native communities. One Jesuit, Henry Hargreaves, ministered to Native people throughout Western Alaska, starting in the 1950s. In 2009, he was accused of raping boys as young as six multiple times, for decades. I asked Father Whitney whether Native American villages were dumping grounds for predator priests. He says no, but I still can't understand why he would have sent a man like Henry Hargreaves to say mass on Indian reservations in Washington State after he was removed from Alaska.
Emily Shwain: So it's almost like he was put back into the same environment in a different place. Maybe while you're saying these weren't dumping grounds, the anecdotal evidence shows that it could have perhaps been that way.
John Whitney: This is what you love in radio, long pause. Right? I really honestly, what happened in some of these accusations, what was the reality of the event, I think was sometimes minimized and not understand.
Emily Shwain: Wait, wait. What I'm hearing you saying, is you did not have this feeling like, well they're just Indian communities so it doesn't matter.
John Whitney: Oh no, not at all. Oh no. I mean, not at all. It was not that at all. It was, and this is one of the things. I know that bishops and [inaudible] struggle with, is you need somebody, you need a priest and we don't have any and if he goes and is monitored and comes back and were his, and that's, you know, just to go up and say mass and just come back that kind of thing, not to live there.
Emily Shwain: So our data, no you know. It's just hard, you know.
John Whitney: It's horrible looking. And again-
Emily Shwain: I feel like you're having, and excuse my language, but I feel like you're having an oh shit moment.
John Whitney: No, it is a little bit. But it's one of those like, yeah, I mean I was always trying my best. And I know there were times I missed something. I know there were times I missed something.
Emily Shwain: At times, Father Whitney drops his head, rubs his eyes, and pinches the bridge of his nose. Do you think that James Pool went to hell?
John Whitney: I really feel, first of all unqualified to answer that. And second of all, I'm not sure anybody goes to hell. What I believe is purgatory. What I believe purgatory to be is that we all have to be purged of the things we hold on to. I fear at least the last time I saw Jim Pool, that I'm not sure he let go in the sense of owning up to what he had done, and he can't be in the presence of God still not willing to know the suffering that he caused. I pray that he did that, does that. I don't know. Time is sort of relative when you're dead. So I don't want to send anybody to hell. That's one of the things I like about the Catholic Church. Is we may declare some people in heaven, but we don't declare anybody in hell.
Emily Shwain: Did the Jesuits create their own version of purgatory on earth? After all, they shuffled accused priests from one community to another for decades and house them under supervision until they died, quietly. They never lived fully free but they didn't face prison either.
John Whitney: I think some of the people deserve to be in jail. We knew we couldn't put them in jail. I felt we had a responsibility to watch over them and that's what we tried to do. We're sometimes the jailers overly beneficent, overly kind maybe. I don't know. It's hard to be a jailer. It's hard to be a jailer of somebody.
Emily Shwain: A few days after James Pool died back in March, Elsie Boudreau sent me a text message. It was short.
Emily Shwain: Hi, Emily. So Pool died on the 6th at 94 years old. A few months later, I met with Elsie and her sister, Florence.
Florence Bush: I think it almost felt like he was a monkey on my back, you know? And now that monkey is gone. And I still, every now and then he comes into my dreams, and it's really awful.
Emily Shwain: It's awful because Florence once considered James Pool part of her family. She says at first, she didn't want to believe he molested her younger sister. Through tears, Florence tells me she was a terrible sister to Elsie.
Florence Bush: I feel bad that I didn't support her right away. But see, you know, and this is not a justification. But my life had more days with Pool than I did with Elsie.
Emily Shwain: Do you really think that she's a terrible sister?
Elsie Boudreau: No. No, and I've gotten to the point where I think, I hope someday you'll be more gentle on yourself and understand that your reaction and I totally understand it. You operated out of denial because you didn't want to believe it.
Emily Shwain: These days, Elsie is a social worker and runs her own non profit to help victims of sexual abuse in Alaska.
Elsie Boudreau: Starting in 2002, over 300 children, childhood clergy sexual abuse survivors in Alaska came forward.
Emily Shwain: This fall, Elsie stood before hundreds of Alaska Native people and called on leadership from the Alaska federation of Natives to recognize the image of clergy sex abuse in their communities.
Elsie Boudreau: We know that this is connected to our historical trauma and continues to effect our people today. The effects of this abuse has life long implications.
Emily Shwain: Those implications involve a loss of culture. For decades, the church wouldn't allow Native people to speak their own languages, sing their traditional songs, or practice their spirituality. As Elsie stands and speaks into a microphone in front of Native elders and friends, her sister Florence, her cousin Nancy Andrew, and two other women surround her. Later, I ask Elsie about that.
Elsie Boudreau: We don't heal alone. And healing is possible. Like, I'm no longer on that iceberg by myself. And while it's a sad reason, holding our truth up connects us in a way makes us stronger together.
Emily Shwain: Elsie is not the only victim of clergy sex abuse in her family. She's the youngest of seven, and she says two of her older siblings were also abused in St. Mary's village. And her cousin Nancy, they all grew up together in St. Mary's. And Nancy says the Jesuits abused two of her brothers.
Nancy Andrew: My brother Tom, he had a great sense of humor, very kind hearted person and I really miss him. He in the end, alcohol did take his life because he did self medicate. He was one that didn't come forward against the church. My other brother did. You know, I know he prayed every day, and even though this happened to him, our people are, we have a connection to spirituality and I know he's in a better place now.
Emily Shwain: Florence, you just said the most beautiful thing.
Florence Bush: What?
Emily Shwain: You just wiped Nancy's tear from her cheek.
Florence Bush: Yeah. These [inaudible 00:49:16], my god.
Nancy Andrew: Thank you Elsie.
Emily Shwain: Thank you Elsie, whispers cousin Nancy. And then we all just stand there. There's not much left to say.
Al Letson: Thanks to Emily Shwain from Northwest News Network for the story. If you'd like to see some of the Church's secret letters that show how leadership covered up sexual abuse by Jesuits, go to our website revealnews.org. Our lead producer for this week's show is Katherine Miskowski. Taki Telenidas edited the show. Thanks to Reveal's Michael Corey, Aaron Sankin, and Nada Zakino and to Sadie Babbitts, Phyllis Fletcher, and the Northwest News Network. Thanks also to bishopaccountability.org. Our production manager is Moyin de Inahosa, original score, sound design, and engineering was from the Dynamic Duo, J. Breezy, Mr. Jim Briggs and Fernando My Man Yo Aruda. Got help this week Caitlyn Benz and the Ajeeb Ameeni. Our CEO is Krissa Sharfenburg. Our executive producer is Kevin Sullivan. Our theme music is by Camarado, Lightning. Support for Reveal is provided by the Reeve and David Logan Foundation, the John D. And Katherine D. McArthur Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Heising Simons Foundation, and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.
Al Letson: Reveal is a co-production of the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. I'm Al Letson, and remember, there is always more to the story.
Speaker 16: From PRX.