After resigning from the Boston College Board of Trustees last week, the Rev. Bradley M. Schaeffer has quietly stepped down from the boards of three additional Jesuit-affiliated institutions amid an uproar over the role he played in supervising a former Jesuit priest accused of molesting dozens of boys over four decades.
Without making public announcements, officials at Georgetown University, Loyola University Chicago, and Brebeuf Jesuit, a preparatory school in Indianapolis, said this week that Schaeffer had cut his ties with their schools.
In addition, the Jesuit Conference of the United States said Wednesday that Schaeffer has stepped down from the board of the ecclesiastical faculty at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, as well as the board of the Vatican Observatory Foundation, which maintains a Jesuit-run astronomical observatory in Italy.
Schaeffer issued brief statements in leaving the three additional Jesuit schools, echoing the one he delivered to the Boston College board last Thursday, in which he said he was stepping down because he did not want to harm the institution “or be a distraction.’’
Schaeffer did not respond to messages from the Globe seeking comment Wednesday.
Schaeffer, the top Jesuit official in the United States from the late 1990s through the mid-2000s, resigned from the Boston College board after the Globe reported that he had failed to stop former Jesuit priest Donald J. McGuire from sexually abusing boys while Schaeffer was the top official in the Jesuits’ Chicago Province, during the mid-1990s.
A retreat leader with close ties to Mother Teresa of Calcutta, McGuire was sentenced in 2009 to a 25-year-term in federal prison for repeatedly molesting a 13-year-old boy.
Advocates for victims of clergy sexual abuse applauded Schaeffer’s decision to step down from the boards of the high-profile schools, but expressed dismay over his continuing role as head of the Blessed Peter Faber Jesuit Community, a study and training center in Brighton that is affiliated with the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.
“It sends a particularly troubling message to young priests who essentially will be overseen by a man who by his own admission did almost nothing to stop a cunning, serial, child-molesting cleric,’’ said David Clohessy, the national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
The Jesuit Conference has said Schaeffer would complete his term as rector of the Faber Jesuit Community. His successor is scheduled to take over in August.
Clohessy also criticized the quiet nature of the Schaeffer resignations from the three Jesuit schools, which became public only after the Globe learned that Schaeffer’s name had been removed from the website maintained by Georgetown University, where he had served as vice chairman of the board of directors since 2006.
“It’s very disappointing, but typical that even now Jesuits can’t bring themselves to be forthcoming about his resignations,’’ Clohessy said.
Schaeffer, who is now 62, was provincial of the Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus from 1991 to 1997. During that time, he received several complaints about McGuire’s behavior with boys and, after having the priest evaluated at a Catholic treatment facility, learned that he had a sexual disorder.
But Schaeffer allowed McGuire to resume a globe-trotting ministry, conducting religious retreats for wealthy Catholics and the nuns working for Mother Teresa while continuing to molest boys.
Schaeffer said in a statement to the Globe in February that he regrets that he did not do more to prevent McGuire “from engaging in these horrific crimes.’’
The first civil lawsuits were filed by McGuire’s alleged victims in 2003 and reported by the Chicago news media. A year later, Schaeffer, who was by then the president of the Jesuit Conference of the United States, was named to his first term on the Boston College board of trustees.
In 2006, McGuire was convicted in Wisconsin on criminal charges that he molested two high school students during the 1960s. Finally, in 2008, he was convicted on the federal molestation charges that led to his 25-year prison sentence.
Nevertheless, Boston College officials said they knew nothing about Schaeffer’s role as McGuire’s supervisor until they were told by a Globe reporter earlier this year.
Terence McKiernan - who is president of the website BishopAccountability.org, which tracks clergy sex abuse cases - said Schaeffer’s role as McGuire’s supervisor and subsequent rise to the most prestigious Jesuit posts in America, raises questions about the integrity of the Jesuit organization, the largest Catholic order in the United States and the world.
“It’s a shame that embarrassment is the only language they speak when so much more is at stake: the safety of children and the viability of the Jesuits,’’ he said.Michael Rezendes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @RezGlobe.