The Jesuit tapped by Pope Francis to serve as the Vatican’s top clergy sex abuse prosecutor failed to remove an abusive priest from ministry even after learning about that priest’s long record, The Boston Globe reported today.
As the second-highest official with the Chicago Jesuits in the 1990s, the Rev. Robert J. Geisinger, SJ, was privy to documents chronicling the abuse of Rev. Donald J. McGuire, SJ, whom the Globe describes as “a globe-trotting priest with many influential supporters, including Mother Teresa of Calcutta.”
A review of Church records by the Globe’s Michael Rezendes shows that Geisinger had knowledge of McGuire’s abuse as early as 1995, and was still making internal recommendations as late as 2002. McGuire was laicized in 2008 and he is serving a 25-year prison sentence.
The Vatican is standing by Geisinger’s appointment, and defended his role in Chicago. They said Geisinger helped shepherd McGuire’s case through Church courts quickly.
The “Holy See fully expects Father Geisinger to continue to do an excellent job as promoter of justice, based on his prosecution record, his commitment to justice, and his concern for victims,” the Vatican said in a statement to the Globe.
Further, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, SJ, director of the press office, said in a statement that Geisinger had “voiced concerns regarding McGuire’s conduct” while working with the Chicago Jesuits, and, according to the Globe, “he credited Geisinger with presenting the case for McGuire’s expulsion from the priesthood in 2008. Lombardi noted that Pope Benedict acted on Geisinger’s request in less than two months.”
Church documents made public by lawsuits and posted on the Globe’s website show that Geisinger and other Jesuits tried to limit McGuire’s contact with young people, including travel. But McGuire was not reported to civil authorities, which troubles victims-rights advocates. Catholic bishops in the United States adopted a zero-tolerance approach to clergy sexual abuse, which requires notifying civil authorities, in 2002.
Still, a founder of the advocacy group BishopAccountability.org, Terence McKiernan, told the Globe, “Do you really want to pick someone who is actually in the paper trail of one of the most egregious cases that the Jesuits have ever handled?”
Correction: This story has been updated. A previous version incorrectly transposed McGuire and Geisinger. McGuire was laicized and is serving a prison sentence.