Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Ohio is an all-boys Jesuit institution that, like so many other Catholic schools, has dealt with its share of abusive faculty members. In 2011, the president of the school informed all alumni and parents that an investigation revealed 33 sexual abuse allegations stretching back to the 1950s and going through the 1970s. The names of six perpetrators were eventually given to local authorities.
Now it’s happened again.
There was apparently an allegation recently made involving a faculty member who taught in the early 1980s. Whether it’s credible or not, I don’t know, but the president of the school, Rev. Raymond F. Guiao, S.J., recently sent out a letter explaining the situation to people currently enrolled there as well as to anyone who attended the school during the years in question.
One of those former students passed the letter along to me.
I am saddened that I need to insert a dark chord as we approach the joyous seasons of Advent and Christmas. In the interest of healing and transparency, however, I am obligated to inform you that I recently became aware of allegations of sexual abuse by a Saint Ignatius faculty member who worked here during your time as a student at Saint Ignatius.
The complaint from a 1981 graduate stated that he was the victim of sexual abuse by a person who was on the faculty at Saint Ignatius in the early 1980s. That faculty member left the school in 1982. I can tell you that I was deeply troubled by his letter and reached out to him to apologize for what he had suffered. His complaint was also reported to the Provincial Office for the USA Midwest Society of Jesus as well as to civil authorities. The Province will also offer the victim immediate access to counseling and therapy at Province expense.
The fact that it took more than 30 years for this victim to come forward speaks volumes about just how painful his experience must have been. No one should have to suffer what victims of sexual abuse have been made to suffer. As the current president of Saint Ignatius and as a member of the Jesuit community, I am deeply and profoundly saddened by what I have heard. At the same time, I am inspired and impressed by the courage victims have shown in sharing these painful memories.Even though we were not aware of these incidents, Saint Ignatius has taken a number of steps over the years to protect our students from predators. We encourage students to approach any adult at Saint Ignatius — priest, teacher, counselor, campus minister or staff member — to report any behavior that concerns them. Our policy requires any school representative who knows or suspects that a student has been subjected to any abuse to immediately notify the civil authorities. We would immediately notify the parents or legal guardian, offer counseling and pastoral support, and keep the name of the accuser confidential. If the report were credible, we would immediately suspend the accused person from his or her position, and cooperate fully with the investigating authorities. This policy has been in place for over fifteen years and is strictly enforced.
The care and safety of our students is paramount to us. All of our faculty and staff share a commitment to the mission of developing each young man and guiding him in his journey to Christ. We do not tolerate any form of abuse, and we absolutely do not support any efforts to protect abusers. In today’s environment, if students told one another about inappropriate behavior, someone would come forward and we would address the allegations immediately.
While facing these challenging allegations is extremely difficult, I want to communicate my unwavering support for victims of sexual abuse, no matter when it may occurred. If you were the victim of sexual abuse by any Saint Ignatius High School faculty member, staff member, or volunteer, I hope you will tell me your story. I can be reached directly by e-mail…, by U.S. Mail and by phone…
Thank you for your prayers for Saint Ignatius High School and for anyone in our school community who suffers in any way. Please know you are constantly in my prayers as well.
Rev. Raymond F. Guiao, S.J.
The student who forwarded the letter said he had a great experience at the school and was appalled to hear that a classmate may have been abused. (He had never heard any allegations or rumors when he attended.)
Still, he said, he felt this was an appropriate response. The school was taking proactive steps to solicit more information from other potential victims, involving local law enforcement authorities (in addition to the Church), offering a sincere apology (even though Guiao had nothing to do with the incident), and providing support at their own expense.
It doesn’t solve the very real problems created by the Church, but this is the sort of response you hope to see from religious leaders. At least, I’m not sure what else I would ask them to do at this point. They seem to be taking all the necessary steps, and they seem like they’re open to doing more if suggestions are made. Would you argue any differently?
(Image via Shutterstock)