Jesuit High School names Navy chaplain as new president _lowres

The Rev. Christopher Fronk, S.J., in a March 2015 file photo. 

One day before the Jesuit order’s regional leaders identify priests and other members of the order suspected of sexually abusing minors, the president of New Orleans’ Jesuit High School on Thursday warned his colleagues that the list will contain some names that have not been previously publicized.

The Rev. Christopher Fronk’s alert came in an email to faculty and staff of the venerable Mid-City school that acknowledged “a lot of pain, anger, embarrassment and sadness surrounding this chapter of our … past.”

But Fronk’s message asked employees to refrain from assuming that “because a Jesuit worked here at some point that the allegation against him involves Jesuit High School.”

The list from the Jesuits will cover priests, brothers and men studying to become priests while teaching locally who worked in the region since 1955 and were the subject of abuse allegations that officials consider credible. But the allegations could stem from postings in other jurisdictions.

Provided by the Jesuits’ U.S. Central and Southern Province, it will follow a similar list published last month by New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond, which identified 57 Catholic priests and deacons who allegedly abused minors over the last several decades. That list included six Jesuit priests but did not include religious brothers and other members of the order.

Both Aymond and the regional province’s leader, the Rev. Ronald Mercier, say the lists are part of an attempt to earn back the trust of parishioners following the latest aftershocks of a sex abuse and cover-up scandal that was first spotlighted in Boston in 2002. The scandal has flared up again in earnest this year, sparked by a Pennsylvania grand jury report that exposed previously unreported allegations involving hundreds of priests.

Because Aymond's list didn’t include non-clergy members of religious orders, such as brothers and scholastics, Friday’s release will likely expand the number of alleged abusers that Catholic officials assigned to the area.

Officials haven't said how many people will be on Friday's list. 

The Jesuits’ presence in Louisiana centers on running Jesuit High School and Loyola University in New Orleans.

The order known for its commitments to education and social justice also runs Immaculate Conception churches in downtown New Orleans and north Baton Rouge, Convent’s Manresa silent retreat home, and a Grand Coteau spirituality center.

Some of the Jesuit High-related names on Aymond’s list had previously been reported. One example was the late Rev. Neil Carr, a former teacher at the high school who was accused of participating in the sexual abuse of an adolescent named Richard Windmann in the 1970s. Years later, Windmann, who wasn’t a student at the school but grew up nearby, received a $450,000 financial settlement. He first discussed his case publicly this fall.

Other names were exposed for the first time when the list came out. An example was the late Rev. Donald Pearce, a former president at Jesuit High School, who in recent years was accused of abuse in the 1960s.

Because it included only priests and deacons, Aymond’s list omitted people such as Claude Ory, a religious brother, and Donald Dickerson, a former teacher studying to become a priest. Both worked at Jesuit High decades ago and were named in lawsuits alleging sexual abuse, prompting out-of-court settlements with the accusers.

Aymond’s list also included Jesuits with ties to Loyola, including former President Bernard Knoth. Knoth, who maintains his innocence, resigned his presidency in 2003 and left the priesthood following allegations that he sexually abused a student at Indianapolis’ Brebeuf Jesuit Prep in 1986.

Fronk, echoing statements from his province, said there will be limits on the detail included in Friday’s list, out of concern for victims’ privacy.

Though he didn’t mention this in his email, Fronk has previously highlighted security measures that didn’t exist when Carr and the others worked at Jesuit. Among them are background checks and laws requiring faculty and staff to alert authorities when they have information suggesting a student might have been sexually abused.

The Jesuits once had a New Orleans province but later folded it into one based in St. Louis. Aside from Louisiana, the U.S. Central and Southern Province manages institutions and personnel in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, southern Illinois, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Texas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico and Belize.

The province compiled the list set to come out Friday.

Additionally, the province said it has hired Kinsale Management Consulting — a company run by retired FBI agents and law enforcement officers — to review its nearly 3,000 personnel files and then publish a comprehensive report of its findings. Province officials expect to release a full report after the audit begins in the spring.  

Follow Ramon Antonio Vargas on Twitter, @RVargasAdvocate.

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