Chronicle of Entanglement – The History of Clerical Sexual Abuse at Loyola University Chicago

During the legal proceedings against former Priest and serial child abuser John J. Geoghan in 2001, Boston judge Constance M. Sweeney’s decided thousands of documents pertaining to the case to be unsealed. This decision resulted in an intricate series of reports by the Boston Globe on the case of Geoghan – but also revealed a wider pattern of clerical sexual abuse and institutional enabling and cover up by the Catholic Church and its religious orders.

Loyola University Chicago’s Madonna Della Strada Chapel on a picture postcard, ca. 1959

Two decades later, the extent of the clerical sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church has become better established and understood. But many Catholic institutions still have not reckoned with the crisis that unfolded in their midst. The pattern of the clerical sexual abuse crisis repeated itself throughout the Church and its orders. Victims and survivors of clerical sexual assault revealed the crimes they were subjected to to church superiors – only to be met with dismissal and inaction.

The Jesuits at Loyola University Chicago also engaged in this pattern of denial: for example, when the Jesuits at Loyola were informed of then-chair of the sociology department Thomas Gannon sexually assaulting graduate students in the 1970s, they dismissed the allegations. The aggrieved graduate students then left the university, while their abuser remained on faculty well until the 1980s, when he transferred to a position at Georgetown, without even having ever been subjected to any form of disciplinary action.

Loyola University Chicago’s Dumbach Hall on a picture postcard, ca. 1959

Church and order leadership time after time chose to avoid scandal, to ignore the calls of the survivors of sexual abuse, and instead shielded the perpetrators, who in most cases received very little—if any—disciplinary actions. This behavior by church leadership is one of the aggravating factors of the sexual abuse crisis that is plaguing the Catholic Church and many of the religious orders related to it.

This documentary website chronicles the association Loyola University Chicago had with sexually abusive priests – mostly Jesuits, but not exclusively – over the decades. This is not to paint Loyola as a particular cesspool of clerical abusers. The goal is rather to illustrate just how widespread and pervasive the clerical sexual abuse crisis was. The documentation is a means to know the truth and the facts about the clerical sexual abuse crisis. Only when those are widely known can we respond to it properly, tell the truth about it, and do justice to the victims and survivors.