Posted: 12 September 2012 01:21:29 PM PDT
Updated: 12 September 2012 08:48:39 PM PDT
By Mark Gomez and Joe Rodriguez
SAN JOSE — A Jesuit brother, accused of sexually molesting a student at Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose more than 40 years ago, was later disciplined by the Catholic religious order and forbidden from working with minors.
After leaving Bellarmine, Brother William Farrington went to Jesuit High in Carmichael, near Sacramento, where he was accused on two occasions of misconduct in the 1980s, according to the Society of Jesus main office in California.
The latest scandal over sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy erupted Tuesday after it was publicly revealed that a 1968 Bellarmine graduate had broken his long silence to Jesuit officials. In stunning and unusual fashion, both Catholic high schools sent frank and repentant emails to hundreds of their alumni.
The former Bellarmine student agreed to talk briefly with this newspaper anonymously, saying, “I feel like I have a duty because of my knowledge and what I’ve learned, and it could help someone to break the ice and speak out.”
He declined to speak about what happened in detail and preferred to limit his comments to Bellarmine and the Jesuits’ attempts to find others who might have been molested by Farrington. The alumnus said he wrote a two-page letter of his own that the school sent to about 500 alumni who might have lived in the dormitory supervised by Farrington or had contact with the swim and dive teams Farrington coached.
Soon after the alumnus’ letter went out, he said other Bellarmine students told him they also were victimized. But he would not say how many.
“The best thing that can happen, after the abuse has occurred, is for the high school to lift back the veil and expose it to the sunlight,” said San Jose City Councilman Sam Liccardo, a 1987 Bellarmine graduate.
A former prosecutor of sexual crimes for the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office, Liccardo lauded the school for standing with the victim. “It’s shameful that the abuse was allowed to happen,” he said. “But all you can do now is control the response. And this is the right response.”
Farrington currently lives at the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos and has declined to comment. Although the Bellarmine letter names the alumnus, this newspaper does not identify victims of sexual abuse without their permission.
He first came forward with his story in 2003, long after Farrington had left the school where he supervised student housing — located at Bellarmine back then — from 1964 to 1974. The victim would not comment on what the Jesuits did after he came forward, and it’s unclear why it took so long for the school to acknowledge the alleged abuse.
Farrington moved on to Jesuit High in Carmichael, as a teacher, counselor and swim coach from 1976 to 1987, according to school spokesman Jordan Blair. Farrington’s time at Jesuit High ended in the spring of 1987 following two negative behavior reports, according to Blair.
“We know there was misconduct,” Blair said. “We don’t know what the misconduct was.”
In the letter sent from Jesuit High, alumni were asked to contact local law enforcement if they had ever been harmed by Farrington.
Long, bad history
Today, Farrington resides at the Los Gatos center with members of other Catholic orders who allegedly committed sex crimes. Also living there is Rev. Jerold Lindner, accused of sexually assaulting Will Lynch when he was 7 years old. Decades later, Lynch attacked Lindner in May 2010 but was acquitted in July after a sensational trial in Santa Clara County Superior Court.
In 2002, the idyllic retreat was publicly exposed when two developmentally disabled men who lived there for more than three decades had been sexually abused by two priests they considered their friends. The Jesuits paid the men $7.5 million to settle their lawsuit.
In the letter to alumni, Rev. Paul Sheridan, president of Bellarmine, called the charges by the former student “credible.” He also notes that the alleged victim decided to share the information “to act as a catalyst for healing for any of his classmates and other Bellarmine alumni who may have been victimized.”
In a separate statement, Rev. Michael Weiler, Provincial of the California Jesuits, apologized to the former Bellarmine student and “to anyone else who may have been abused.” Weiler also declined interview requests from this newspaper.
Meanwhile, the Santa Clara County prosecutor who supervises the District Attorney’s sexual assault team said Wednesday that no one from Bellarmine or the Jesuits had contacted the office or the police to report that a graduate claimed he had been molested on campus 40 years ago.
“I don’t have any information that there is an investigation — and there really can’t be one because we can’t prosecute anything that goes that far back,” said Supervising District Attorney Steve Fein.
However, Pat Walsh, a spokesman for the Jesuit headquarters in California, disputed the notion that the Jesuits did not reach out to legal authorities. He said a representative contacted the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office in the past several days.
Jeff Rosen, the district attorney, said he heard nothing from the Jesuits.
The alleged local assault was apparently committed in the early 1960s, when the statute of limitations — the period of time in which victims have to report the abuse and prosecutors have to file charges — was six years.
The Legislature approved longer time periods in the 1990s and 2005 for certain victims. Fein further noted that under state law, 1988 is the furthest back prosecutors can go. He also urged anyone who believes they were assaulted by Farrington in the past 24 years to contact police.
After his departure from Jesuit High, Farrington spent 15 years in an administrative role at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where he worked in the registrar’s office, according to the Province of California Jesuits.
The office says Farrington now lives under close supervision in Los Gatos, and his restrictions are reviewed annually by a lay advisory board that includes local medical professionals, law enforcement and business leaders. Walsh added: Farrington is now 71 years old and has not left Sacred Heart without an escort since 2002. He lives in an infirmary designed for elderly priests and does clerical work there.
Still, such cases provoke strong reactions.
“The Jesuits have been moving people for years without ever telling anyone,” said San Jose attorney Robert L. Mezzetti II, one of three attorneys for the developmentally disabled victims at Sacred Heart. “If any other multibillion-dollar corporation, and that’s what the church is, had one of its senior managers accused of molestation … they would be fired and turned over to the police. But the Jesuits just don’t do that. They hide it.”
Bellarmine’s open letter comes at an unprecedented time in the history of priest sex-abuse scandals, which have roiled the Catholic church since the 1990s. For the first time, high-ranking, U.S. Catholic officials have been held accountable for failing to report allegations to the authorities.
In a landmark case in late June, an American Catholic leader was convicted of covering up molestation and rape allegations against priests. Monsignor William Lynn, an assistant to the archbishop in Philadelphia, was sentenced to three to six years in prison for child endangerment.
Just last week, a Catholic bishop in Kansas City, Robert W. Finn, was convicted of one misdemeanor count of failing to report child sex abuse.
Staff writers Tracey Kaplan and Mark Emmons contributed to this story. Contact Mark Gomez at 408-920-5869. Follow him on Twitter @MarkMgomez.