Jesuit Dallas Faces a Moment of Reckoning in Former Student’s Sex Abuse Allegations
September 24, 2019
There is something far worse than seeing an important local institution face the exposure of a terrible past, and that is to keep that past in the dark.
Jesuit College Preparatory School has been a rock of Dallas that has helped many boys develop into great men.
But the allegation from former student Mike Pedevilla that a giant of Jesuit’s past, the Rev. Patrick Koch, abused Pedevilla when he was a teen must represent a moment of reckoning for Jesuit and for Dallas Catholics in general.
We applaud Pedevilla, 54, for the courage to come forward decades after an incident he has described as sexually abusive in Koch’s office on Jesuit’s campus.
Koch was Jesuit’s principal or president from 1972 to 1980 and is a towering figure in the school’s history. However, we know that Koch, who died in 2006, is also on a list of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse in not one but two cities, Dallas and Corpus Christi.
He originally filed suit anonymously but decided to make his name public in our pages Sunday because he said he wanted to live up to his alma mater’s motto that calls on its students to be “men for others.”
"I am going to be a man for others, again, for the voices that can't stand up for themselves, but also for the voices yet to even walk through the doors of Jesuit, and in a bigger way, the Diocese of Dallas. Because it's in that vein that I want to make the change," Pedevilla told reporter Jennifer Emily.
Pedevilla’s anger is rooted in what he has said Koch did to him. But it is branched today by the way he sees the church and Jesuit handling allegations of abuse.
He is angry that Koch did not appear on the list of credibly accused priests that Jesuit released. And he is frustrated that the Catholic Diocese’s list did not detail the nature of the allegations against priests nor did it note how many people a priest might have abused.
We share those frustrations. Jesuit’s reaction to Koch’s appearance on the Dallas Diocese list was unsatisfactory.
The school’s president, Michael A. Earsing, wrote to “friends of Jesuit” that the school “will seek spiritual guidance as we further consider the school's response to this news."
Spiritual guidance might be appropriate. But investigative guidance would be more practical, and that’s what Jesuit should have told its friends and the whole world it was seeking — a full accounting of what happened to the boys it was charged with educating.
Pedevilla, meanwhile, deserves the school’s support.
It is hard to imagine a greater sacrifice than to hold oneself up for scorn, anger or ridicule in the name of exposing a truth. We should be long past the time when victims of sexual abuse feel ashamed for coming forward. The reality is that we are not past those times.
Koch will never have a day in court that the allegations against him suggest he deserved. Pedevilla might get that day.
The only path forward is toward the truth, and everyone here, from Jesuit to the church itself, must be focused on illuminating the past, not shading it in the dark.