Letter on Jesuits accused of sex abuse

Dear St. Francis Xavier (College) Church Parishioners and Friends,

It is with deep sadness I want to inform that this morning the Jesuits of the United States Central and Southern province released the names of those Jesuits credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults since 1955. The full list, a statement from the provincial Fr. Ron Mercier, S.J. and accompanying information can be found at the province website.

It grieves me to report there are three Jesuits with close ties to College Church listed. Two were assigned to College Church in the 1970s. They are Fr. Tony Short, SJ associate pastor from 1971-74, and Fr. Jack Campbell, SJ (deceased) associate pastor from 1970-76.  I also wish to inform you that Fr. Francis X. Cleary, SJ (deceased) is also included on the list. Fr. Cleary was never assigned to College Church, but was a frequent presider at liturgies in the 1970s and 1980s.

Like me, you may be shocked, saddened and angered by this news. There is no indication any of the accusations made against them stem from their ministry at the parish, or even during the time period of their assignment here. Please know that I am available if you desire to talk about this with me.

I am aware many of us have connections with various Jesuit institutions in the city. Each will be making known as well the credibly accused Jesuits who were missioned to their respective apostolates. The information can also be found on the province site above.

Anyone who has felt victimized by a Jesuit, or who seeks to report abuse by a Jesuit is urged to contact their local law enforcement agency. They are also encouraged to contact Carol Zarinelli Brescia, MSW, LCSW, who can respond pastorally on behalf of the Jesuits. She can be reached confidentially at (314) 915-7168, or UCSOutreach@jesuits.org.

There are no words Fr. Mercier or I can offer that can alleviate the pain and suffering of those who suffered at the hands of our fellow Jesuits. I know the victims, their family and friends continue to experience the unbearable trauma caused by members of the Society of Jesus. All we can do is be honest and open in regards to these sins and crimes, and dedicate ourselves to making sure such horrific acts are never perpetrated again.

The parish staff and I are committed to the care and protection of children at College Church. Every single person working with minors is required to complete the Safe Environment training authorized by the archdiocese of St. Louis. Any of the Jesuits working with children also completes the further training required by the province for all its members.

Next Sunday, December 16th following the 10:30am liturgy Fr. Mercier will be with us on the ballroom to discuss the province’s response to this crisis. There will also be opportunities for reflections and sharing in small groups. All are welcome to attend.

The Advent season calls us to consider darkness and light. St. John at the beginning of his Gospel states, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” We know all too well the power of darkness, but our faith calls us to hope in the light. May Emmanuel, God with us, come and not delay. May Christ dispel the darkness through the light of truth and justice.

Fr. Daniel P. White, S.J.