KXLY [Spokane WA]
September 1, 2021
By Melissa Luck
A Gonzaga University commission has released its recommendations for the university to adopt in light of sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests.
In 2019, the university came under scrutiny for housing Jesuit priests accused of sexual abuse.
Those priests lived in the Cardinal Bea House, a Jesuit-owned building on Gonzaga’s campus.
Specifically, the university referenced the “horrifying, predatory sexual abuse of Alaska Native girls and women by James Poole, a Jesuit priest who worked at the time in Nome, Alaska.” The Society Of Jesus knowingly reassigned priests like Poole and others to new locations where they had access to children, women and vulnerable adults. Some of them continued their abuse before being assigned to the Cardinal Bea retirement house on the Gonzaga campus.
As that information came to light, Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh appointed the commission to “identify, discuss, and make recommendations” regarding a “set of formal actions the University should undertake in light of the Catholic sexual abuse crisis and Gonzaga’s institutional experience of it.”
In its report, the commission called the work “a profound journey, one that was deeply challenging and full of meaning.”
The commission concluded that Gonzaga needed a concrete plan.
“As a Catholic university, Gonzaga must respond to the realities of abuse in the Church along with other Catholic universities and organizations throughout the country and world,” the commission wrote.
The commission made a series of recommendations to President McCulloh, laid out by subject matter in the report. In a letter to the campus community, McCulloh said he was grateful for the commission’s work and ha accepted and endorsed each of the recommendations.
The commission suggests the university commission a project that tells the story of Gonzaga’s past, formation, identity and mission. The report says that needs to include Jesuit and native perspectives. The commission also suggests the university invite the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition for a campus-wide event.
The commission also suggests the university set aside $10,000 a year to fund faculty research addressing issues related to sexual assault in the Catholic Church. “This fund should be named “Social Justice & The Catholic Sexual Abuse Crisis.”
The commission also recommends the university establish a permanent memorial to honor those affected by Catholic sexual abuse, specifically those abused by Jesuits who were later housed in the Cardinal Bea house.
Also in its report, the commission says “Building on commitments from President McCulloh and leadership from the Jesuits West Province that no Jesuits with credible accusations will be
missioned to Gonzaga, develop clear and formalized protocols regarding the assignment and movement of Jesuits to Gonzaga University.”
Finally, the commission lays out suggestions for the university to improve relations with Native tribes, which have been disproportionately impacted by Catholic sex abuse.
“This document represents the culmination of more than 18 months of work, and contains clear and thoughtful recommendations about the actions our Catholic, Jesuit and humanistic university should undertake given the clergy abuse crisis within the Church, our own institutional experience, and our role as a learning community to advance healing, justice and reconciliation,” McCulloh wrote. “On behalf of our entire University, I wish to express my deepest appreciation to the members of the Commission, and thank them for their commitment, courage, and diligence throughout this project.”