Priest, 80, Accused of Sex Abuse
Crime: Jesuit is charged in a case involving a mentally retarded kitchen worker

By Glenn F. Bunting
Los Angeles Times
May 10, 2002

Prosecutors in Santa Clara County on Thursday charged an 80-year-old Jesuit priest with sexually abusing a mentally retarded man.

Father Edward Thomas Burke was arrested and booked on $50,000 bail. He had been under investigation by the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department for allegedly abusing the 51-year-old kitchen worker during the 1990s while both lived at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos, Calif.

Burke is the second elderly Jesuit at Sacred Heart to be charged with a felony sex crime. Brother Charles Leonard Connor, also 80, served six months of home detention last year after being convicted of committing a lewd act on a disabled adult.

Burke and Connor are among four Jesuits named in a civil lawsuit alleging that between 1996 and 2000, they repeatedly sodomized and molested two mentally retarded men at Sacred Heart, a retreat in the foothills overlooking the Santa Clara Valley.

Attorneys for the two victims and the California Province of the Society of Jesus, commonly known as the Jesuits, are continuing to negotiate a financial settlement. A hearing is scheduled for May 23 to set a trial date for the civil lawsuit.

Burke's attorney said the suspect was aware that authorities were contemplating filing a criminal complaint. Burke faces a maximum of three years in prison if convicted of the felony charge of lewd conduct against a dependent adult.

Charles Hendrickson said he was hopeful that prosecutors would take into consideration Burke's age and health. "He is in his 80s. He has a pacemaker. I am concerned about his health," Hendrickson said.

The victim's sister, Debra Sullivan, said Thursday she was relieved that authorities had decided to file a criminal complaint against Burke.

"This is what I've been wanting for quite some time," said Sullivan, who learned of the alleged abuse more than a year ago. "I'm glad it's done."

The claims involving Burke came to the attention of law enforcement on March 24, when a story in The Times disclosed the allegations against the four Jesuits in the lawsuit.

The story also reported that three other Jesuits were registered sex offenders in Northern California, after convictions in separate cases involving minors. Documents showed that some Jesuit leaders declined to notify authorities when they learned of the allegations.

According to a police report filed with the complaint against Burke, the abuses took place in the victim's second-story room.

The kitchen worker was interviewed twice by Sgt. Dianne L. Camarda, a detective with the Santa Clara County sheriff's sex crimes unit.

The man "said he didn't think Burke would keep doing the bad things to him, and he only invited him into the room because he wanted someone to watch train tapes with him," Camarda wrote in her report. "[He] said Burke told him not to tell anybody so he didn't.... [He] said he was just too nervous or scared to say anything to anybody."

Jesuit superiors quickly removed Burke from Sacred Heart in April 2000 after he admitted he had engaged in sexual misconduct with the retarded man, documents show.

Burke was reassigned to the Jesuit residence on the campus of Bellarmine College Preparatory, a prestigious all-boys high school in San Jose. He now lives at a nursing home in San Jose.

Allegations that the two retarded men were molested were first reported in 1995, but Jesuit leaders did not report them to authorities.

Father John Martin, the superior at Sacred Heart, told Sgt. Camarda that "he is appalled at what has happened at the [center] and, using hindsight, knows someone should have phoned the Sheriff's Department when these incidents first came to light," according to the police report.


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