Gonzaga Statement Regarding Sex Abuse Allegations
Gonzaga University Responds to Oregon Province Statement Regarding John Leary, S.J.

September 8, 2006

(Spokane, Wash.) — The Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus (1) today announced deeply distressing news about reported incidents approximately 40 years ago involving John P. Leary, S.J., who served Gonzaga University from 1961-69 as president.

Province officials, after researching historical information for submission to the court, informed Gonzaga administrators and publicly announced that in 1966 Leary was accused of sexual abuse. According to Provincial V. Rev. John D. Whitney, S.J., Leary adamantly denied the allegations and was allowed to remain in office. "While today a more thorough investigation would immediately have begun, in 1966, such an approach was not undertaken," said Whitney.

In 1969, new allegations were brought to the Jesuits concerning Leary, and he was removed from office. He was sent to New York, then to Massachusetts under the pretense of "health problems." For the next 30 years Leary served in positions throughout the Western United States until his death in 1993 at age 75.

Father Whitney apologized for his predecessors' creation of an "artificial scenario" regarding Leary's departure from Gonzaga. He said, "Though in more recent years, we had received allegations of such abuse and had settled with some survivors, these newly reviewed documents clarify the course of events, and the uncharacteristic behavior of the Province in dealing with this matter. While today, stronger safeguards and clearer policies are in place, the Jesuits wish to publicly acknowledge the failures of our history and apologize to those who have suffered, in the hope that it might bring some healing and reconciliation."

"My deepest sorrow and sympathy go out to the victims and their families. Gonzaga has a rich tradition of education, service and compassion, and we sincerely regret these actions," said Gonzaga President Rev. Robert J. Spitzer, S.J.

"We recognize that this revelation will have significant impact on many people.

John Leary was highly regarded by many alumni, friends and other members of the community. We are very sorry for the sadness this announcement must cause," he said.

"Our communities, our colleges and universities, and our Church today struggle with the past and present realities of inappropriate conduct and sexual abuse," Rev. Spitzer said. "Aware of the immediate and longstanding impact that such can have on individuals, the University has, over an extended period of time, instituted measures to make clearer and more systematic the reporting, investigation and accountability for inappropriate sexual behavior. Policies and procedures are clearly outlined in our Student and Faculty handbooks, and in our Personnel Manual," he said.

The Oregon Province will handle all public and media inquiries concerning this matter. The contact person is Pat Walsh at (541) 513-1236. Click on the following link to read the Oregon Province statement issued today concerning this matter.


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