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The Double Life of John Leary 

The New College founder is promoted as a visionary. The college should openly admit the Jesuit priest was a pedophile.

Wednesday, Oct 25 2006
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Page 5 of 5

The publicly stated rationale for Leary's departure was the same as it had been at Gonzaga University: "health reasons."

I know of no evidence, however, that Leary was forced out of Old College for the same reasons he left Gonzaga.

Havas told me he did not recall Leary's firing from Old College, nor the reasons behind it. Other trustees from that time did not return calls requesting an interview.

I asked Van Hollebeke, who was personally close to Leary and interviewed him extensively for her self-published book, if she'd talk to me about her research. Her writing seemed to insinuate that she wondered why Leary kept leaving town without explanation.

She said she'd rather not talk to me, instead e-mailing a statement.

"All who loved Jack Leary, his friends and family, are feeling drenched in shame right now," she wrote. "He never told me about his tormenting flaw, even though I asked him many times why he left Gonzaga so abruptly. I knew he was hiding something. But I guess he knew I wouldn't be able to handle knowing what it was."

Either that, or he knew he wouldn't be able to handle the abrupt lifestyle change that accompanies being exposed as a child molester.

New College, however, needn't fear such peril. Seeking out alumni who had contact with Leary, with the intent of ferreting out additional victims, wouldn't harm the college's reputation. It would enhance it because anything less is irresponsible and inhumane.

"The idea is to encourage witnesses, and to encourage victims to get help," said Clohessy, the national director of the abuse victims advocacy group SNAP. "We view abuse as like a cancer. If you're to have real chance of recovering from cancer, you have to dig in and root it all out."

Modifying the Jack Leary myth, from the uplifting yet bogus account of pure human triumph to a tale about the twisted pied piper of experimental academia, likewise wouldn't dull the allure of his greatest achievement, New College.

In my view, it would make the place more interesting and true to itself.

For a temple of inquiry such as the one at 777 Valencia St., could that be such a bad thing?

About The Author

Matt Smith

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