by Tess Daniels
Following a trend of many U.S. provinces, on January 15, the Northeast Province of the Society of Jesus released a list of past and present members with credible allegations of sexual abuse of minors. The list, containing 50 names, dates from the 1950s to 1997. At least 32 of the allegations were first reported in or after the 2002 investigations, when a series of Boston Globe articles systematically exposed clergy abuse and widespread cover-ups. In 2002, the U.S. bishops adopted a zero-tolerance sexual abuse policy, with allegations of past abuse continuing to emerge.
The Northeast Province, covering New England, New York, and northern New Jersey, is the final province in the U.S. to release a list of Jesuits facing a credible allegation. Credible allegations, the province said, are determined by a “preponderance of evidence that the allegation is more likely true than not after investigation. Credibility can also be established by conviction in a court or by the admission of the truth of the allegation by the Jesuit.”
Fr. John J. Cecero, S.J., the provincial of the Northeast Province, said in a statement that he hopes this list contributes to healing from the pain and anger caused by clergy sex abuse and the lack of accountability and transparency on the part of church leadership.” He decried any case of abuse as “shocking and a profound failure.” Cecero noted in the statement that since the investigations in 2002 the Northeast Jesuit Province has worked closely with accreditation agency Praesidium, Inc. With Praesidium, Cecero wrote, they are “grateful, although no less vigilant,” for no new cases of abuse of minors for more than fifteen years.
As a response to the current crisis in the Church, Catholic bishops from across the United States began the new year by taking part in a spiritual retreat for seven days at Mundelein Seminary. The retreat took place at the invitation of Pope Francis, who noted in a letter to the U.S. bishops that in during critical moments, “the Lord withdrew and spent the whole night in prayer and spent the whole night in prayer, inviting his disciples to do the same.” Pope Francis in his letter also urged the importance of combating the culture of abuse and reinvigorating the Church’s credibility. The retreat was conducted under the theme of “He appointed twelve, to be with Him and to send out to preach,” based on Mark 3:14.
The retreat is intended to prepare the bishops for a Vatican summit being held from February 21-24, focused on the clerical sex abuse crisis and child protection. At the retreat, Pope Francis has announced, there will be testimonies and then a penitential liturgy to ask forgiveness for the whole Church. Abuse survivors, the world’s 130 bishops, the heads of the 22 Eastern Churches, and representatives of men’s and women’s religious orders will all attend the summit. Francis has requested that all heads of bishops’ conferences meet abuse survivors “as a concrete way of ensuring that victim survivors of clerical abuse are first and foremost in the minds of all” as they come together “in solidarity, humility, and penitence.”
Two of the Jesuits on the Northwest Province’s list were associated with Boston College:
Joseph Fox, who was here from 1931-34 and then from 1939-43
Joseph McInnes, who was here from 1945-46