NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The day before the release of a preliminary list of Jesuit clergy members accused of child sex abuse, Jesuit High School’s president sent a message to faculty and staff.
In his email, Father Christopher Fronk said he wanted to give advance notice that some of the names on that list may be new to the Jesuit community.
The Jesuit U.S. Central and Southern Province retained an outside consulting firm to review all personnel files dating back to 1955. On Friday (Dec. 7), the province will release a preliminary list of Jesuits and former Jesuits who have been credibly accused of child sex abuse.
Fronk said, “given some recent information from the province, I want to inform you in advance that some names listed will be new to you. However, you should not assume that because a Jesuit worked here at some point that the allegation against him involves Jesuit High School.”
Tim Lennon, the president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said while releasing a list of names is a step in the right direction, more needs to be done.
“We can’t rely on the church to investigate itself. They’ve demonstrated that they have not been an honest broker in this, an honest player in this. They’ve seen their reputation is more important than the safety of children,” said Lennon.
FOX 8 has done extensive reporting on church sex abuse claims. In a TV exclusive earlier this year, Richard Windmann told us that Jesuit High School janitor Peter Modica raped him on the school’s campus back in the late 1970s while priest and theology teacher Corneilus Carr watched and participated. Windmann said Jesuit High eventually paid him $450,000 in a confidential settlement for that abuse.
“I didn’t go for money. I went for counseling and spiritual guidance. And they were like, ‘Nah, here’s a whole bunch of money. Shut up, go away,’” said Windmann.
We have also reported on former Jesuit High School teacher Donald Dickerson. A lawsuit that was settled in Orleans Parish in 2009 claimed he sexually assaulted a boy on the school’s campus in the 70s. Three years after that settlement, the Jesuit Order was sued again when several other alleged victims came forward saying Dickerson abused them at a Shreveport church in the 80s after he worked at Jesuit.
Both cases resulted in large settlements. We reached out to the Felecia Peavy, the attorney representing those alleged victims, who said the following:
“Why has it taken over 60 years for the Jesuits and the rest of the Catholic organization to decide that it is only proper and right to audit and account for the sexual predators that were allowed to invade the organization and betrayed so many Catholic families? The passage of over 60 years should certainly convince the Jesuit Order and the Church that no set time frame is appropriate for a victim to gain the courage, feel safe and secure to speak out and confront a predator and the nightmares from the horrible encounters. If the ultimate goal of the Jesuit audit is for its victims to heal, then the Catholic Church must accept an open time frame as a fact of the healing process.”
The complete list from that audit of Jesuit personnel files is expected to be finished in the spring.
“We have to realize that the province of Jesuits could have released this list a year ago or five years ago or 10 years ago," said Lennon. "They haven’t because they have a systematic history of covering up, and they’re only compelled to do so because of the disclosures of Pennsylvania that showed widespread complicity of bishops to cover up.”
In his email to Jesuit High faculty and staff, Father Fronk also said, “concern for the privacy of victims prevents us from giving details of abuse, but this step from the province is made to be transparent, to build trust, and to help victims heal.” Fronk goes on to say, “I know there’s a lot of pain, anger, embarrassment and sadness surrounding this chapter of our school’s past. I feel it too. I thank you for all the hard work you put in to making us proud as we move forward to carry out the mission of forming men of faith and men for others.”
We asked the Jesuits U.S. Central and Southern Province why it hasn’t released a list of names before now. A spokesperson tells FOX 8 they wanted to protect victims' privacy because many of them requested confidentiality. She added each case was handled individually, and there was no master list of offenders.