Art by Hunter Franklin ’19 | A collage of the accused priests.
By George Anton ’21 and Josh Belgrad ’19
Eight Jesuit priests that have worked at Brophy at some point in their careers have been credibly accused of sexual abuse against a minor or a vulnerable adult.
On Dec. 7, the Jesuits West Province released the names of all priests connected to the order that had credible claims made against them.
Of the eight Brophy priests accused, Eugene J. Colosimo was the only one accused of abuse during the period he worked at the school (1955-1960).
Before the news came out in December, President Adria Renke wrote to the parents of all students letting them know of the list of names that would be posted.
Ms. Renke said in her letter that, “If at that time we determine any member of Brophy’s clergy or clergy faculty has been found to be associated with a past, credible allegation, we will move swiftly to cooperate with the investigation, provide evidence and ensure offenders are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Ms. Renke indicated in an interview that the San Jose Mercury News had published ten or so names of priests, calling them abusers. She said that the list was not all accurate because some of those names had been exonerated years ago.
The Mercury News article, along with the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report in August, which detailed cases of priests in the Church accused of abusing minors, caused the Jesuits West province to turn to complete transparency.
The Director of Jesuits West, Fr. Scott Santarosa decided to thoroughly investigate all sexual abuse claims against priests of Jesuits West.
He said in a letter written on Nov. 9 that he promised to release all of the names that were found guilty.
In a video Interview, Santarosa said, “We cannot stand by and say at any level this is acceptable or we just need to pray this away. No. We need to change what is deeply wrong in our Church.”
Mr. Thomas Danforth ’78 was a student back in the 1970’s and still teaches at Brophy today. He said he never knew any of the men very well but did remember a few things.
One of the few things about Father Thomas O’Rourke that Mr. Danforthremembers is that he wore a sweater every day of the year and that “he would walk around the chapel area for hours saying his rosary.”
Mr. Danforth did have the chance of knowing Father Carlton Whitten better because he had him as a teacher for Freshman English.
“Everybody really liked him a lot. He was funny and a good English teacher,” said Mr. Danforth.
He said that no one ever heard any of the accusations until years later. Whitten was a well-liked, funny teacher who made the transition into high school a better experience for many students, according to Mr. Danforth.
He said that there were never any rumors going around about WHitten which made it more of a shock when the accusations came out about him.
“There was no indication that he might have done anything with a student. He was always with other Jesuits,” said Mr. Danforth.
Past Brophy students never got the chance to hear any of the accusations against the priests, many of whom were their teachers.
However, with the news breaking in recent months all current students have heard about the former faculty and the claims against them, and have formulated their own opinions about it and how the news has affected them.
Brophy senior Brady O’Gara ’19 is a religious leader on campus. Whether as a Eucharistic minister at monthly mass, or a leader on Kairos, Brady embraces his spirituality.
Regarding the current news about the priests, O’Gara believes that we as a community need to look forward, not back.
“It’s a shock to everybody, the members of the Catholic Church especially. It’s scary,” said O’Gara.
“The church is put on this pedestal of how holy we are and how ‘good’ we are, this news shows us that there are flaws as well and we can grow as a community from it,” O’Gara said.
As a demonstrated religious leader on campus, O’Gara shared how this news has affected his spiritual life.
“Every priest is their own person, they are not the entire Catholic Church and I follow the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church’s beliefs have not changed themselves so it does not really affect me in that sense.” O’Gara said.
Alex Zoneraich ’21 is a sophomore who does not practice Catholicism but still interacts with priests and Catholic leaders on a regular basis.
Many people without ties to Brophy have asked him many times if the news of the former priests at Brophy changes his everyday life on campus, according to Zoneraich.
“For the most part, I’d say no. I actually have pretty good relationships with the priests here on campus such as Father Del Torro, and I don’t see any of that changing,” said Zoneraich.
Zoneraich indicated that he believes that Jesuits West has done what’s right coming out with the list of names, instead of sweeping the scandal under the rug as the Church has done in past instances.
“In our Brophy community, we have done a good job of being very open about which priests have actually committed this injustice. I don’t think they are trying to hide anything from us,” said Zoneraich.
When the news did reach the Brophy community in Ms. Renke’s letter on Nov. 14, along with the letter on Dec. 7 with the list of names, it was sent to “parents, alumni, faculty and staff, members of the Board of Trustees and Regents, benefactors and friends of Brophy College Preparatory,” said Ms. Renke.
Ms. Renke purposefully did not address her letters to the students. She decided this because it was such a sensitive topic and it would be better if our parents discussed it with us.
Ms. Renke said, “I considered talking to all of [the students]. I decided no, the parents know and do the parents really want us to be the purveyors of that information.
She expressed that whenever she and Mr. Bob Ryan (Principal) have a problem to solve, they always put the students first and make their decision based on the students best interest.
Some students including Zoneraich wish that they were addressed by the school.
“I feel like it affects more the students than the parents. Whether an email should have been sent out to the kids, or some kind of rally, or teachers talking about it in class, it should be addressed more with the students,” said Zoneraich.
Ms. Renke said that she apologizes if she offended any students by not speaking with them directly.
The general feeling among the Brophy community now is that it was good the news came out, and now it is time for the Church and Brophy to move forward into the future.
I’m really surprised but in a way, it gives the church room to grow and an opportunity to learn from their mistakes,” said O’Gara.
Zoneraich said, “The church is broken and they need to be given time to get past this and progress.”
Ms. Renke emphasizes that her door is always open and that she is completely willing to discuss this with any students that are confused or have questions.
“This is a very confusing thing because we put our faith in these men,” Ms. Renke said.
With open hearts and a loving community, Brophy looks to a better future.