Assignment Record – Rev. John P. "Jack" Leary, s.j.

Summary of Case: A priest of the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus ordained in 1951, Leary spent his career in higher education, founding several schools and establishing a reputation as a brilliant and charismatic innovator. Allegations that he was sexually abusing boys and young men began to surface in 1965 or 1966. Leary was president of Gonzaga University at the time; he was allowed to keep his post. In 1969 Spokane police were receiving reports of Leary's sexual abuse. They went to the Jesuits with the offer that Leary would be spared arrest if he left town within 24 hours; Leary was quietly sent away to a Jesuit boys' school in Lenox, MA to "recuperate." He went on to live and work in Logan, UT, Santa Clara, CA, San Francisco, CA, New York, NY, Reno, NV and Portland, OR. The Oregon Province Jesuits in 2006 claimed they didn't learn the details of allegations against Leary until 2006; they said documents show he may have abused "as many as" 12 youths.

: 1951
Died: Dec. 21, 1993


Start Stop Parish/Assignment Town/Accusations State/Country Position Notes


San Francisco archbishop was John Joseph Mitty (1935-1961).

1952 Alma College Alma CA  


Seattle archbishop was Thomas Arthur Connolly (1950-1975).

1954 Manresa Hall Port Townsend WA    
1954 1955   Rome Italy   Address listed is 120 via del Seminario.


Spokane bishop was Bernard Joseph Topel (1955-1978).

1969 Gonzaga University


• In 1965, Leary is said to have sexually assaulted an 18-year-old male Gonzaga freshman, whose job it was to drive Leary to a speaking engagement across the state. His accuser said that while he was sleeping in a hotel room during the trip, Leary slipped into his bed, naked, and tried to penetrate him. His accuser said he had to fight the priest off.

• Leary was accused in a 2006 lawsuit of sexually molesting a 12-year-old boy in 1965. The boy, who lived in a nearby neighborhood, is said to have been riding his bike near Gonzaga when Leary lured him into his office. Further, university officials are said to have found out about the incident and called the boy in for a meeting. They are said to have told the boy not to tell his parents, and that they would take care of it.

• In 1969 new allegations that Leary was sexually abusing boys and young men were reported to the Spokane police. The police told the Jesuits that Leary should leave town within 24 hours, or he would be arrested. Leary was quietly sent away.

WA philosophy instructor; dean, school of education; university president 1961-1969

















Notes written by Leary show that in one case in 1966 he spoke with the parents of an accuser about the "misunderstanding." There was no investigation.



Jesuit officials stated publicly that Leary had to resign due to "ill health."

1969 1970         Leary is indexed in the 1970 Directory as at Gonzaga, but he is not listed as there in the Spokane diocesan pages.


Springfield bishop was Christopher Joseph Weldon (1950-1977).

  Cranwell Prep. School Lenox MA   Cranwell Prep. was a Jesuit school for boys. Leary is said to have been sent to the school to recuperate.


Salt Lake bishop was Joseph Lennox Federal (1960-1980).

1970 Utah State University Logan UT philosophy professor This assignment is per news reports. Leary is said to have been in Utah for three years. Leary was assigned to come up with a grant proposal for educating Native American boys.


San Francisco archbishop was Joseph Thomas McGucken (1962-1977), followed by John Raphael Quinn (1977-1995).

1978 Santa Clara University Santa Clara CA vice president of university relations Although the 1971-1978 Directories index Leary as at Santa Clara, he is not listed as there in the San Francisco archdiocesan pages.
1971   New College of California Sausalito CA founder Leary founded New College in Sausalito. He later moved it to San Francisco.
    New College of California San Francisco      


New York archbishop was Terence James Cooke (1968-1983).

    New York NY   Leary went to New York for a New College "Academic Year in New York." His seminars were conducted with small groups of students in his apartment.
1978 1981         Leary is not indexed in the 1979-1981 Directories.


Reno-Las Vegas bishop was Norman Francis McFarland (1976-1986).

1985 Old College Reno NV founder Leary was asked by the board of trustees to leave in 1985, announcing to the public that Leary was leaving for "health reasons."
1985 1986 St. Joseph's New York NY   Leary is indexed in the 1986 Directory as at this parish, but he is not listed as there in the New York archdiocesan pages.
1986 1987         Leary is not indexed inthe 1987 Directory.


Portland in Oregon archbishop was William Joseph Levada (1986-1995).

1988 Jesuit Seminary & Mission Bureau Portland OR director  
1988 1993 Jesuit Provincial Residence Portland OR  

The 1988-1994 Directories do not list an assignment for Leary.

Leary died Dec. 21, 1993.

In 2006 the Oregon Province Jesuits stated they had recently discovered documents that showed Leary may have abused "as many as" 12 youths.


Sources: Official Catholic Directory (New York: P.J. Kenedy and Sons, 1952-1995)

Public Statement of the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus V. Rev. John D. Whitney, S.J. Provincial Superior, By Dale Goodwin and Peter Tormey, Gonzaga University, September 8, 2006
Gonzaga Statement Regarding Sex Abuse Allegations, Gonzaga University Responds to Oregon Province Statement Regarding John Leary, S.J., Spokesman-Review, September 8, 2006
Jesuits Hid Sexual Abuse by Ex-Gonzaga President, By Janet I. Tu and David Bowermaster, The Seattle Times [Spokane WA], September 9, 2006
Cover-Up at Gonzaga, By John Stucke and Benjamin Shors, Spokesman-Review [Spokane WA], September 9, 2006
Jesuits Say Educator Abused Boys, Gonzaga - Oregon Jesuit Officials Report a College President's Sex Offenses and the Order's Cover-Up, By Kimberly A.C. Wilson, The Oregonian, September 9, 2006
Cover-Up at Gonzaga U., By Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed [Spokane WA], September 11, 2006
Sex Scandals at Catholic Colleges 'No Surprise', Says Catholic Education Lobby, Gonzaga President Abused Boys; Lacrosse Players Hire Strippers, LifeSite, September 13, 2006
Spokane Abuse Victims Demand Lie Detector Test of Jesuit Leader, By Nicholas K. Geranios, The Associated Press, carried in KGW [Spokane WA], September 15, 2006
Court Papers Reveal Man Took Gun to Kill Priest for Abuse of Son, The Associated Press, carried in KGW [Spokane WA], September 27, 2006
Abuse Victims Seek Release of Accused Priests' Names, By Janet I. Tu, Seattle Times, October 4, 2006
Abuse Cases Put Focus on Jesuits, By Janet I. Tu, The Seattle Times, October 16, 2006
The Double Life of John Leary. The New College Founder Is Promoted As a Visionary. The College Should Openly Admit the Jesuit Priest Was a Pedophile, By Matt Smith , SF Weekly [Spokane WA], October 25, 2006
Non-Monetary Undertakings of the Spokane Diocese, Diocese of Spokane , November 21, 2007
Jesuit Head of Seattle U. Knew of Priest's Abuse, Lawsuit Claims, By Janet I. Tu and Nick Perry, Seattle Times, January 14, 2009
A Safe Environment for Children & Youth, Catholic Diocese of Spokane, November 3, 2009
Abuse Claims against Jesuits Reach 500, The Spokesman Review, December 6, 2009
Northwest Jesuits Agree to Landmark Settlement for Hundreds of Clergy Sexual Abuse Victims, PVCA Press Release, March 25, 2011

Priests in a Parish: We use the following convention to show a priest's place among the clergy of a parish: 1/2 means that he is the first priest listed in the Official Catholic Directory (usually the pastor) and that there is a total of two priests at the parish. The shorthand 3/4 means that the priest is listed third on a four-priest roster. See our sample page from the Directory.

Note: The Official Catholic Directory aims to report the whereabouts of Catholic priests in the United States on January 1 of the Directory's publication year. Our working assumption is that a priest listed in the Directory for a given year was at the same assignment for part of the previous year as well. However, Kenedy and Sons will sometimes accept updates well into the year of publication. Diocesan clergy records are rarely available to correct this information. The Directory is also sometimes misleading or wrong. We have tried to create an accurate assignment record, given the source materials and their limitations. Assignment records are a work in progress and we are always improving the records that we post. Please email us with new information and corrections.

This assignment record collates Leary's career history as it is represented in the Official Catholic Directory with allegations as reported in the media. We make no representation regarding the truth of the allegation we report, and we remind our readers that the U.S. legal system presumes that a person accused of or charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty. Similarly, individuals who may be defendants in civil actions are presumed not to be liable for such claims unless a plaintiff proves otherwise. Admissions of guilt or liability are not typically a part of civil or private settlements. For more information, see our posting policy.

This assignment record was last updated on March 25, 2014.