Imagine that you’re a deeply religious young person….

ST. LOUIS (MO) [St. Louis MO]

May 10, 2022

By David Clohessy

You feel a ‘calling’ to serve God.

You specifically feel that God wants you to be ordained as a cleric.

And not just any cleric. God says you should be a priest.

Imagine you’re from a devout Catholic family.

Chances are that people you know will be excited by this news.

Chances are that they think highly of priests.

Chances are that, if you attend parochial school, your teachers will be excited.

And chances are that your parents and other relatives are thrilled you feel about your decision.

But a handful of men can thwart your noble calling.

One is your diocesan vocations director (who could tell your bishop “I don’t think this young fellow would be a good priest” or “feels a genuine calling” or “is likely to truly be celibate” or “could really make it in our rigorous seminary program” or whatever).

Another is your bishop (without whose approval you simply won’t be able to become a priest anywhere).

A third is the person who “performs assessments of potential seminarians” (and might claim, based on his expertise, that “this guy doesn’t have what it takes to be a successful priest”).

It’s clear that each of these three men wield tremendous power over you and your future.

Now imagine how you might feel and what you might do if one of these respected and powerful men suddenly makes a sexual move on you. Or makes sexually suggestive remarks to you. Or manipulates you to succumb to his sexual overture. Or worse.

Imagine how confused and scared and vulnerable and helpless you would feel.

No doubt the last thing you would do would be to report this to the police or a prosecutor. Or seek out a civil attorney. Or call a support group (if one existed at the time).

For years, that’s the position that Fr. Howard Hoewischer held in the Jesuit hierarchy: he ‘performed assessments of potential seminarians.’ He could advance or block the career, the ‘calling,’ the future, of virtually any teenager or adult who aspired to become a Catholic priest.

And of course if that happened to you, it’s very unlikely that you could or would switch your life-long Catholic affiliation and find fulfillment in some other denomination.

In addition to giving a thumbs up or thumbs down to potential seminarians, Fr. Hoewischer was a long-time professor at Regis University in Denver. He also chaired the Psychology Department. In other words, he had respect and authority in several realms.

And he had the power – academically, professionally, personally and likely financially – to substantially help or substantially hurt you as a prospective priest.

You know where this is headed. Fr. Hoewischer abused that power and authority, repeatedly, to sexually violate trusting and sometimes desperate seminarians/future priests.

I know this from multiple sources, most notably because I’ve spoken to one of his victims. And I believe that Jesuit officials have admitted that several other men have disclosed to the church hierarchy their victimization at Fr. Hoewischer’s hands.

Like nearly every Catholic official across the US, the Jesuits have promised to be “open and transparent” about abuse. Under pressure, they have revealed the names of some child molesting Jesuits.

Their list of credibly accused abusers, however, does NOT include clerics who have sexually violated vulnerable adults, clerics like Fr. Hoewischer.

But it should.

It’s especially crucial that Jesuits do this because they run schools and colleges. Their clerics have tremendous access to innocent kids and vulnerable adults.

If their men all mowed grass in cemeteries or preserved church archives or composed church music, there might be some vague, weak or unconvincing argument that being open about abusive clerics is less important.

But that’s not the case. Every day, for centuries, highly educated and respected Jesuits have been around, and looked up to, by admiring and trusting young Catholics.

Who knows how many boys, girls and young adults have been sexually manipulated and violated by Jesuit clerics?

But we should know who those offending clerics are. The Jesuits should tell us. But they refuse.

Shame on them.

Reading the SNAP Statement from Sunday, November 9, 2008:

Statement about tonight’s vigil in Baltimore on the eve of the US Catholic Bishops conferenceDavid Clohessy