Jesuit SNAP’d again — this time in Philadelphia

St Aloysius Gonzaga

St. Aloysius Gonzaga SJ, a Jesuit scholastic, patron saint of youth, noted for his purity

The long arm of The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has reached cross country, from California in the 90s to Pennsylvania two days ago.  Rev. Thomas Gleeson SJ has been found (out) again:

Another accused priest works in Philadelphia Archdiocese

Jesuit was accused of sexually harassing a young seminarian

Despite a settlement in 2002 [sic], he’s chaplain at a Philly university

SNAP wants him removed and students and staff told of his past

“It’s not just kids,” [SNAP] says, “Clerics also assault vulnerable adults”

The seminarian was a scholastic, a Jesuit in training.  Gleeson was president of the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley.  The Jesuits contested the hearing of the case, calling on a clerical exemption from workplace harassment liability, but when that issue was decided against them in late 1999, they settled with the complainant.

Gleeson was transferred back to his home base (Maryland Province) and put in charge of a retreat center in Wernersville PA, serving also as a director and trustee of Wheeling (WV) Jesuit University, where with two other (Jesuit) trustees he effected the dismissal of the WJU president in 2009, after two years in office.

In the aftermath of the widely unpopular firing, Gleeson was revealed by SNAP as having been accused of harassment.  In a few months, he left the Wernersville post, remaining in his Wheeling Jesuit positions, SNAP’s protest notwithstanding.

Last October he assumed a chaplaincy at St. Joseph’s U., Philadelphia, where SNAP found him again and duly exposed and protested his California record, again calling on church authorities to depose him.

The Philadelphia Daily News ran a story:

[Former Jesuit scholastic] John Bollard alleged in the suit that Gleeson and two other priests harassed him for five years while he was a seminarian at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, where Gleeson was president.

The suit was settled in 2000 out of court, with the priests denying any wrongdoing.

Unwillingness to argue the case is typical.  Monetary settlement has been the norm in Catholic abuse cases, presumably according to legal and public-relations advice.  But Bollard told his side on “Sixty Minutes,” and the grim details, never contested in court, remained to shock many and besmirch reputations.

Bollard, who said he was 25 when the incidents started, alleged in the suit that Gleeson had asked him to masturbate with him.

The other Jesuit priests, Drew Sotelo and Anton Harris, were accused of sending suggestive pornographic pictures of naked men to Bollard and asking him to cruise gay bars.

Harris sent a card “depicting a fully aroused man,” with the note, “Thought this might inspire some theological thoughts.”

Indeed, Harris lost his Seattle U. vice president’s job in 2006 once the Seattle Post-Intelligencer published its story, in which a Seattle U. spokeswoman unfortunately brushed off the law suit story as “old news,” betraying remarkable disregard for public, especially Catholic, opinion and tradition.

A similar pattern is evident in Philadelphia.  A St. Joseph U. spokeswoman told the News they had known of “the allegations,” but that Gleeson had denied them and neither archdiocese nor Maryland Province had objected to his hiring as a chaplain.  The paper also reported that the St. Joseph community had not been informed of Gleeson’s past.

This changed with a memo to students and another to faculty, as recounted in The Hawk, the student newspaper.

Saint Joseph’s University President Timothy Lannon, S.J., sent separate emails to students and staff regarding Gleeson’s employment at the university and the allegations leveled against him late yesterday afternoon. Both emails indicated that the university was made aware of Gleeson’s past by a recent letter from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. [Italics added]

However, the president’s claiming he knew nothing of Gleeson’s history is in contradiction of what the spokeswoman had told the newspaper hours earlier, as The Hawk writer points out.

[I]n a Philadelphia Daily News article published this morning, Assistant Vice President for University Communications Harriet Goodheart stated that “we were aware of the allegations of 11 years ago, which he denied, and was cleared for assignment.”

The Hawk will be updating its story, the editor notes.  [Here’s the link: Goodheart explains.]

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  • Susan Matthews  On March 7, 2011 at 8:06 AM

    Thank you to SNAP for exposing the religious order and archdiocesan shell games being played with sexual predators.


  • Erastus  On March 7, 2011 at 10:10 AM

    Susan Matthews’ “Catholics4Change” website inaccurately calls Rev. Gleeson a “pedophile priest,” – probably a libel, since Gleeson has never been accused of misconduct towards any child. The single complaint against him, of an unwelcome and unrequited sexual overture, was made fifteen years ago by an adult male who was 25 years old at the time.

    Like inspector Javert, SNAP hounds Gleeson wherever he goes, apparently unwilling to countenance the man’s continued association with the Church. Whether this is just I cannot say, but I know it isn’t Christian.


    • Jim Bowman  On March 7, 2011 at 11:23 AM

      Thanks for catching the pedophile part. The complaint is of quite another nature, as Erastus says. Very serious nonetheless, since it involves senior Jesuits hitting on one in training, behavior that poisons a religious-community environment.


  • Judy Jones  On March 7, 2011 at 2:19 PM

    In any setting where there is an inherent power imbalance between clergy-church members. It is much like a teacher-student, or doctor-patient, or therapist-client relationship, where any sexual harassment or contact is expressly forbidden. And for good reason: because it almost always results in devastation, with individuals and the families.

    We urge anyone who has knowledge or may have been harmed by Glesson to call police officials, not church officials. Sex crimes, however old, should be investigated by the independent professionals in law enforcement, not the biased amateurs in church offices.
    Keep in mind your silence only hurts, but by speaking up there is a chance for healing, exposing the truth, and therefore protecting others.

    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, 636-433-2511
    “Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests”


  • Kay4Justice  On March 7, 2011 at 4:38 PM

    They are so busy covering up that the left hand has no idea what the right hand is doing. Thanks to SNAP for perservering in their quest. Those who cover are enablers of the worst kind. Those who protest too much favor abuse, which I know isn’t “Christian.”


  • Susan Matthews  On March 27, 2011 at 1:19 PM

    I will correct the inaccuracy on my site Why not let me know there? My intention is to shine a light.



  • […] publicity and/or losing in court in sexual abuse and/or harassment matters? Rev. Thomas Gleeson SJ, outed three weeks ago in Philadelphia, could have had his day in court 11 years ago, but Jesuits fought the very idea and settled with […]


  • […] Jesuit SNAP'd again — this time in Philadelphia В« Blithe Spirit Mar 6, 2011 … Another accused priest works in Philadelphia Archdiocese … Indeed, Harris lost his Seattle U. vice president's job in 2006 once the Seattle Post-Intelligencer published its story … […]


  • By President seattle university accused on May 17, 2011 at 3:57 AM

    […] Jesuit SNAP'd again — this time in Philadelphia В« Blithe Spirit Mar 6, 2011 … Another accused priest works in Philadelphia Archdiocese … Indeed, Harris lost his Seattle U. vice president's job in 2006 once the Seattle Post-Intelligencer published its story … […]


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