Creating this project was no easy task. First of all, there is of course the very nature of a project like this. Writing about sexual abuse is never easy, and writing about the sexual abuse of children is a particularly difficult thing to face. Another challenge was that we had to limit ourselves to analysis of publicly available data. We did not conduct any original research or investigations. Luckily, a lot of the groundwork had already been done by many, many others. U.S. survivors and victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy have forced the church to make the details of their cases available on the public record as much as possible. This enabled the success of the online archive Bishop Accountability. This online repository lists a nearly exhaustive number of United States Catholic priests who have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse. On top of this, the website also contains court documents, archived news articles, as well as archived assignment lists detailing where which clergy member was officially posted at any given time, as well as lists that religious orders and dioceses released that detail members that were credibly accused of child sexual assault. Bishop Accountability has been crucial for the success of this project.
The first step was to identify all Jesuit priests credibly accused of sexual assault that had at some point in their careers had an association with Loyola University Chicago. To do this, we consulted the official lists released by the Jesuit Order, the latest of which can be found here. This yielded a number of names we could then begin to investigate further. We compared the entries found on the official Jesuit lists with the Anderson Report for the state of Illinois. The Anderson Report is a more exhaustive list that includes Catholic priests regardless of whether they belong to religious orders or whether they are parish priests. This way we found more sexual abusers that were not listed by the Jesuits due to them not belonging to the Jesuit order. We then also scoured Bishop Accountability for mentions of Loyola University Chicago to see if the online archive had material on individuals that we had so far not seen on any of the lists.
We then compiled a list of names, added the time during which these individuals were associated with Loyola University Chicago, when and where the alleged child sexual abuse they were accused of took place, and what the status of their respective cases was, whether they had been removed from the order, from public ministry, whether they had been charged with a crime or just been credibly accused, and whether they were still alive or had passed on.
With these data points established we then consulted Bishop Accountability for more details on the individuals. At this stage we decided to focus on four Jesuits who each represented a different level of involvement at Loyola: Donald McGuire, who spent time at Loyola as a graduate student, Thomas Gannon, who was chair of the department of sociology, Larry Reuter, who sat on the university’s board of trustees and worked in campus ministry, and lastly John Powell, who for a long time was a faculty member at the department of theology. These four we would research in-depth and cover extensively.
A problem we identified early on was that none of the lists included the positions any of the priests occupied at Loyola University Chicago. Since we were not allowed to consult any sources not accessible to the public, we decided to go to the Loyola archives, and look at the course books from years that we knew our subjects were present at the university. This yielded a couple of interesting insights, especially in terms of deviating numbers between the lists and the official Loyola records.
When it came to writing the individual essays, we conducted some research with internet search engines but also through Loyola’s newspaper database of historical newspapers out of Chicago. Through that we could establish more biographical data of the perpetrators, where they were born, in some cases where they received their primary and secondary education. These various data points gave us enough to begin fleshing out the profiles. In terms of biographical data we focused on date and place of birth, if possible where the subjects went to school, date they entered the Jesuit order, date they were ordained to priesthood, dates of their association with Loyola University Chicago, dates of alleged sexual abuse incidents, dates of accusations, date of sentencing and verdict as well as state of the individual at time of writing.
For the four exemplary case studies we delved deeper into their histories, especially in terms of where they received their Jesuit education. This was when we realized that many of them had gone to West Baden College in West Baden Springs, Indiana, and that this college had been a Jesuit seminary that was an affiliate of Loyola University Chicago. We then turned to the detailed documentations that Bishop Accountability offered as well as to research that other scholars of the sexual abuse crisis had conducted on at least one of our subjects. From these materials we created the in-depth reports on the four main individuals.
For background on the history of the child sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church we consulted a variety of literature, from several different disciplines. This literature provided a rough overview on where the current research and scholarship into the issue of Catholic sexual abuse stands. The field is quite diffuse. Some work has been done by historians, but the overall historiography of the crisis is lacking. Other disciplines contributed vital insights, be it sociology, legal studies, theology, and psychology. These various works and analyses provided the necessary context and deeper insight, allowing us to shape our own analytical lens.
While writing and conducting further research for the individual essays we found some more things that had us in some cases alter our approach and in other cases drop the individuals from our study all together. In one instance we found that the individual in question had been erroneously reported as having a connection with Loyola in the first place. Overall we decided to include every individual credibly accused of sexual abuse who had at any point in their lives had an association with Loyola University Chicago. Our goal was to demonstrate how pervasive the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church was, and that sexually abusive clergy existed at every level of the university. We chose not to focus just on those individuals who engaged in sexual abuse while they were at Loyola, since one of the important and insidious aspects of the sexual abuse crisis was the shuffling around of abusive priests by their superiors. So we decided to paint as exhaustive a picture as possible, using the data available to us.
Now that the individual essays have been written, we decided to create shorter blog posts from the in-depth studies that will eventually populate the online documentation website. There visitors will see a photograph of the perpetrator, where possible, a fact sheet with biographical data, the text of the blog post-style essay, and an embedded PDF of the full-size scholarly essay on each individual. The four main subjects will have their respective essay embedded, while the remaining nineteen individuals’ pages will feature the essay that talks about the entirety of these cases at Loyola University Chicago.