Jesuits release list of priests credibly accused of abuse, including 22 with Mass. ties
The governing body for Jesuit priests in eight Northeastern states released a list Tuesday of 50 clergy who were credibly accused of sexual abuse against children dating back to 1950, including 22 who were affiliated with high schools, hospitals, churches, and colleges in Massachusetts.
The list includes 16 Jesuits who worked at Boston College High School in Dorchester, and one priest who ministered in Fall River and Gloucester, but was only stripped of his duties in the last two weeks as officials at the USA Northeast Jesuit Province prepared to publicize his name.
All but five of the Jesuits with Massachusetts ties are listed as deceased. Among the living is James Talbot, who was defrocked in 2013 and jailed last year for sexually assaulting a boy in Freeport, Maine, during the 1990s, according to The Portland Press Herald.
A former wrestler and hockey coach at BC High School, Talbot pleaded guilty in 2005 to raping and sexually assaulting two students there during the 1970s and was sentenced to five to seven years in prison.
In 2003, 15 men, including 10 former BC High students, settled civil cases against Talbot and institutions that employed him for $5.2 million stemming from sexual abuse allegations that spanned three decades.
In a letter published on BC High’s website, president Grace Cotter Regan said the school is committed to providing a safe and secure learning environment.
“I know that the release of these names must be painful for the individuals and families impacted by these deplorable actions,” she wrote. “The Northeast Province’s decision is an important and critical step in our continuing efforts toward a full reconciliation and healing.”
From 1980 to 1998, Talbot worked at Cheverus High School in Portland, Maine. The school said seven Jesuits on the list worked there. All but Talbot and Richard Roos are listed by the Jesuits as deceased.
“Cheverus High School has a zero-tolerance policy regarding abuse and we work vigorously to maintain a safe environment for all students, faculty, and staff,” the school’s president, the Rev. Robert J. Pecoraro, said in a statement.
The letter from Regan said Talbot is the only living Jesuit with ties to BC High School to be credibly accused of abuse. But the Northeast Province’s list has two other men who worked for the school and are listed as living.
One is John H. Acres, who admitted to abusing a minor in 1987, the Jesuits said. The other is Robert Cornigans, according to the list.
In 2002, the Globe reported that Acres was accused of inappropriate behavior with BC High students and his name was forwarded to the Suffolk district attorney’s office.
The Jesuits said he left the order in 1995.
An investigation into Cornigans found he had abused a minor in 1976. The abuse was disclosed in 2003. He worked at BC High from 1976 to 1978 and left the order in 1981, the Jesuits said.
A BC High spokeswoman referred questions about Acres and Cornigans to the province.
The misconduct by all 50 Jesuits on the list occurred between 1950 and 2008, with the most recent offense being committed by James Kuntz, a former priest who pleaded guilty in federal court in New Jersey to possessing child pornography.
The allegations were reported between 1961 and last year, according to the list.
The Rev. John J. Cecero, who leads the province spanning from Maine to northern New Jersey, said in a statement Tuesday that he hopes making the list public 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.”
“At the heart of this crisis is the painful, sinful and illegal harm done to children by those whom they should have been able to trust,” he said. “We did not know any best practices to handle these violations many decades ago and regrettably made mistakes along the way.”
Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, said the publication of the list is “an important step in transparency and accountability.”
“We encourage dioceses and religious orders across the United States to make public the names of clergy with credible accusations and to work proactively with law enforcement in responding to the crime of sexual abuse,” he said.
Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represents victims of clergy sex abuse, questioned the criteria used by the Jesuits to prepare their list and accused the order of covering up past misconduct.
One Jesuit not included on the list, Garabedian said, was the Rev. Charles M. Loeffler. In 2003, Garabedian said, he settled a claim on behalf of a woman who said Loeffler molested her in 1941 in Massachusetts when she was 9.
“This omission of [Loeffler] from the list by the Jesuits is an example of why an independent investigation of the Jesuits and of the Catholic Church relative to pedophilia must take place,” Garabedian said in an e-mail.
Including Talbot and Roos, the list has five living Jesuits with ties to Massachusetts.
Roos was stripped of his ministerial duties this month after the province determined that he had admitted to abusing a minor, said Mike Gabriele, a spokesman for the Jesuits.
In 2001, the Jesuits restricted Roos’s ministerial duties after finding he crossed a boundary with an adult, according to Gabriele, who didn’t have details about that incident.
At the time, Roos worked at Gonzaga Retreat in Gloucester, but it’s unclear whether he was sanctioned for his conduct there. His other assignments include stints at Bishop Connolly High School in Fall River and in Jamaica, the Jesuits said.
While being treated for crossing a boundary with an adult, Roos admitted to sexually abusing a minor during the 1980s, Gabriele said. But the Jesuits didn’t take action against Roos for attacking the child until recently when officials discovered a record of his admission, he said.
“It’s an oversight,” Gabriele said Tuesday.
Roos has been sent to an undisclosed location where he doesn’t have contact with minors and must abide by a supervision plan, the Jesuits said.
Another Jesuit stripped of his ministerial duties who can’t have contact with minors is James Pratt, who worked at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester from 1992 to 1995.
Pratt was removed from ministry in 2003, the Jesuits said, when he was accused of abusing a minor in the 1980s, but the order didn’t give a specific date. Holy Cross said the abuse occurred in 1983.
In a 2003 story about the abuse allegation, the Associated Press reported that Pratt was accused of attacking a high school senior and that the incident occurred before he was ordained in Worcester in 1986.
Pratt was among three accused Jesuits who worked at the Worcester college, according to a letter from the Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, Holy Cross’s president. The other two Jesuits are dead. In each case, the abuse was reported after the Jesuits left Holy Cross, Boroughs wrote.
“I recognize the pain that the information on this list may cause,” he said. “I know that many of you, like me, continue to feel shock, anger and grief as we learn of more instances of abuse of minors by trusted members of the clergy and the cover-ups which allowed this sinful behavior to continue.”