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Let Him Prey: High-Ranking Jesuits Helped Keep Pedophile Priest Hidden 

Wednesday, May 25 2011
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Baumann could not be reached for comment. According to Jesuit online publications, he was posted as of December on a mission in Ghana. A man who answered the telephone at the home of Crotty, the former school administrator who also learned of McGuire's abuse of Charles, refused to speak to a reporter. State law in 1993 unequivocally required that educators report suspicions of abuse to civil authorities.

The question of whether Charles's case should have been brought to police is also complicated by the fact that his family had no desire to do so. Today, Charles's father says that while the Jesuits' early responses to his family's complaints were inadequate, the Society's recent actions have been more satisfactory.

"I think the Jesuits were slow to believe ill of a fellow member; and underestimated [the] nature and scope of the problem," he wrote in an e-mail to SF Weekly. He credited Chicago Provincial Edward Schmidt, who stepped down in 2009, with treating his family more compassionately than earlier officials. "When Father Ed Schmidt did step up to the plate, their response was really excellent in our view," he said, declining to elaborate on what the response entailed, or whether they received financial compensation. "Our family has had what I would call a miraculous reconciliation and healing with them because of their sincerity and good faith."

After Charles's complaint, the legal landscape changed. From 2000 on, when Fessio and Buckley informed the Jesuits of McGuire's additional inappropriate activities with Dominick, clergy were specifically listed under state law as mandated reporters of child abuse. Buckley, now chaplain at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif., declined to comment for this article. "I have nothing to say. That case is dead. He's in jail," he says. "I'm sorry. I can't give you any information." Naucke, the California socius who Jesuit records indicate passed on their concerns to Chicago, said he did not consider reporting the information on McGuire to police or child welfare officials. Fessio and Buckley "didn't tell me anything that would have triggered that," he says. "They had some rather vague concerns."

Fessio defends his actions, saying the report of the suspicious guardianship arrangement did not involve specific suggestions of sexual abuse. "It was not even an allegation; it was only that Father McGuire was in New England claiming that he was adopting this person," he says. "There was no abuse there. I just thought it should be looked into."

There was abuse there, even if Fessio was unaware of its existence or extent. McGuire had, in fact, tried to represent himself as Dominick's legal guardian on an application to a parochial school. And if anyone had looked into the situation, McGuire's sexual molestation of the boy — which included the priest's hallmark pornographic seminars, as well as invasive massages in which he inserted his fingers in Dominick's anus — might have been revealed.


Victims would have to turn to secular authorities before justice could be done. A civil lawsuit stemming from McGuire's years at Loyola Academy was filed in 2003, followed by a criminal investigation in Wisconsin. That state's statute of limitations on child molestation charges reached back into the 1960s, allowing authorities to prosecute McGuire for taking Loyola students on vacations into Wisconsin and abusing them. McGuire was convicted in 2006 on five counts of sexual assault of a minor. Dominick's suffering did not fully come to light until 2007, when his past abuse formed the linchpin of federal prosecutors' case against McGuire.

Phil Koss is district attorney of Walworth County, Wis. He was the first law enforcement official to take on McGuire, gambling that he could prove a 4-decade-old crime while facing enormous resistance from the Jesuits. In response to his cross-state subpoena for records on McGuire, the order provided him with a single double-sided page of the job postings the priest had held over the years, but none of the extensive documentation that would later emerge in civil litigation.

For Koss, the McGuire saga is an illustration of why statutes requiring the reporting of suspected child abuse should apply to clergy, and be rigorously enforced. Few better examples can be found of a religious organization's failure to prevent harm to innocents through internal controls. "The point of [the laws] is so these exact same things don't happen — 'I passed it on because I thought someone else would handle it,'" Koss said.

It is a timely observation, particularly in light of the Vatican's current thinking on its relationship to secular law enforcement agencies. In the wake of the McGuire scandal, the Chicago Province adopted a policy of reporting all abuse allegations to "civil authorities." George Wesolek, spokesman for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, likewise said it is the church's policy to fully comply with California's mandated reporting laws. Yet earlier this month, Cardinal William Levada — the former San Francisco archbishop who is now prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, one of the most powerful positions in the Roman Catholic Church — issued a letter requesting that bishops around the world draw up new guidelines on how to respond to child sex abuse. The results of this effort could be critical in steering the church's future handling of victims' complaints.

About The Author

Peter Jamison

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