Top Jesuits, who long knew about the scandal, aren't talking. The alleged molester, Brother William Farrington, is shuttered away at a retirement home with other accused abusers. And even the alleged victim, who wishes to remain anonymous, won't comment on why it took so long.
"You will have to ask the Jesuits that," the 1968 Bellarmine graduate said in a telephone interview Thursday.
"He came forward and had lots of conversations with the Jesuits," said Pat Walsh, referring to 2003. Walsh is the only person allowed to speak for the Society of Jesus. "They apologized and he wanted an opportunity for counseling, which he received."
Walsh indicated only that nine years passed and recently the alleged victim "reached a point where he wanted to come forward and wanted other people to know, just in case they had a similar experience and also wanted to come forward."
So earlier this week, supported by the Jesuits, hundreds of Bellarmine alumni received a two-page letter from the alleged victim, who urged any of them who might have been victimized by Farrington in the mid-1960s to 1970s to come forward. In addition, Bellarmine and another Catholic school near Sacramento, where Farrington also taught, sent supportive letters of regret about the abuse.
However, the alleged victim said getting the Jesuits to back the letter required the approval of the Rev. Michael Weilor, the top Jesuit in California. Weilor's office sits near the infirmary
Weilor was open to sending the letter, the alleged victim said, but not the lawyers and other officials working for the Jesuits. The alleged victim said (Weilor) "prayed, slept on it, searched his soul," and decided to allow the letter to be distributed. He also authored a supportive statement of his own this week. "He...did the right thing," said the Bellarmine graduate. "I stand with him."
Another mystery is why Farrington was able to move from Bellarmine in the 1970s, to Jesuit High near Sacramento, where he also coached swimming and diving. He also attended and worked at two Jesuit universities before being sent to Sacred Heart, a secure facility.
Walsh explained that the Jesuits never knew of any Bellarmine incident until 2003. Farrington left the school in 1974 to complete a degree at nearby Santa Clara University, a Jesuit campus. He then moved to Jesuit High, where he was accused of misconduct twice. His tenure there ended in 1987 after two negative behavior reports, according to the Jesuit High spokesman.
Farrington turned up next at Loyola Marymount University, a Jesuit campus in Los Angeles, where he worked in the registrar's office for 15 years. Walsh said there were no accusations made against Farrington at the college. But in 2002, he ended up living at the Jesuit retirement home. There, he is never allowed to leave the grounds without supervision.
San Jose-based attorney Robert L. Mezzetti II said the Jesuits have a long history of quietly switching troubled clergy members from assignment to assignment, and that secrecy only had led to more cases of sexual abuse. Mezzetti said he has worked on more than 50 lawsuits involving alleged church misconduct, including a 2002 case involving two developmentally challenged men at the retirement home. The men, allegedly molested by two Jesuits at the center, were awarded $7.5 million.
"The Jesuits have been moving people around for years without ever telling anyone," Mezzetti said. "If any other multi-billion-dollar corporation -- and that's what the church is -- had one of its managers accused of molestation, what would happen? They would be fired and turned over to the police. But the Jesuits just don't do that. They hide it."
Thomas Plante, a psychology professor at Santa Clara University who is a member of the religious order's California review board, believes it's important to remember that we're looking at decades-old cases "through the lens of 2012."
The shifting of abusers, Plante said, "happened in every institution, whether it's school districts, churches or sports organizations. This was particularly a problem in the 1960s, '70s and well into the '80s, and it's tragic."
He said attitudes began to change in the mid-1980s with the realization that molesters cannot be rehabilitated and should never be allowed near children without supervision. That may be how Farrington moved from Jesuit High, despite the two accusations of abuse, to Loyola Marymount.
"The thinking then probably was, 'We've got to keep this person away from kids, so put him in a college environment,'" Plante said. "Looking at it from the 2012 perspective, we can see that they never should have wanted him on a campus around young adults because that still was a problem."
It's not clear where this troubling saga goes next. The Santa Clara County District Attorney's office has been adamant that it was never informed of the Bellarmine allegation against Farrington. Walsh, counters that Mary Pat Panighetti, the victim advocate for the California headquarters of the Society of Jesus, did contact the DA, but no one had gotten back to her.
Although the state's statute of limitations on such crimes has expired, what happens if more more recent Farrington victims turn up? How would the religious order respond, with multi-million dollar settlements, as it has in the past? In any case, what will the Jesuits do with Farrington now?
The Bellarmine graduate who came forward said he does not have a lawyer or a lawsuit pending. He said he hopes the scandal will not tarnish Bellarmine or Jesuit institutions.
"I received an excellent education and much of the reason I am who I am is because of the moral compass they gave me," he said. "One bad person, one bad situation, does not change the education thousands of men have gotten from the Jesuits."
incidents connected to Sacred Heart Center