April 28, 2019
By Shawn Vestal
In recent months, a refrain has arisen from many people who live, teach and study at Gonzaga University: There’s no way Thayne couldn’t have known.
That response touches on the insistence by GU President Thayne McCulloh that he was not aware that the Jesuits were sending priests who had sexually abused children to retire on campus, before and during his presidency.
Starting in the 1970s, the leaders of the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus sent 24 priests who had “credible claims” of abuse lodged against them to live in Cardinal Bea House – a retirement home owned by the Jesuits and located on the GU campus – or in the GU-owned Jesuit House, which has been replaced by the Della Strada Jesuit Community.
The men sent there included several notorious Jesuits with long and publicly documented histories of abuse, many of them in Native communities in Alaska and the West – histories that were reported in the news media and revealed in lawsuits and bankruptcy actions over more than a decade. A report by Reveal, aired on radio and as a podcast in December, landed like a bomb on campus; while the report was in many ways a compendium of previously reported information, it detailed for the first time the extent of the practice of housing abusive priests on the GU campus.
In a statement after the report, McCulloh offered a seemingly contradictory series of assertions about what he knew and didn’t know. The bottom line: He said he was never notified that Jesuits who were on supervised “safety plans” over abuse allegations were living at Bea House or on campus while they were there.
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