BC Board Member Resigns Amid Allegations Of Failed Priest Abuse Oversight

A longtime Jesuit leader has stepped down from the Boston College Board of Trustees amid allegations he failed to act against clergy abuse.

Just as a demonstration against Rev. Bradley Schaeffer was about to begin, Boston College said Schaeffer was out. Boston College released a 37-word statement from Schaeffer saying that he does not want to be a distraction, so he is ending his service as a trustee.

BC spokesman Jack Dunn said the board of trustees had just started investigating information from civil lawsuits in Chicago indicating that Schaeffer failed to act while he supervised abusive priest Donald McGuire.

"When Brad joined the board, when Father Schaeffer joined the Board of Trustees at Boston College, we weren't aware of what was going on in Chicago,” Dunn said. “All of us were completely focused on what was going on here in Boston. We weren't aware he had issues supervising Don McGuire, who by all accounts is a monster."

Some of the allegations against Schaeffer are decades old. Dunn said BC was not aware of any of them until now. But advocates for clergy abuse victims, like Terry McKiernan, with the group, don't buy it.

"It's astonishing to us that he was ever admitted to the board, given his actions back in 1991 to 1997, when he was running the Chicago Province of the Jesuits,” McKiernan said. “Schaeffer was instrumental in allowing Father Donald McGuire, who is really the Paul Shanley and Father Geoghan of the Jesuits. Father Schaeffer unfortunately allowed Father McGuire to continue abusing children."

In 2008, McGuire was sentenced to 25 years in prison for charges as horrific as those leveled against some of those high-profile, Boston-area pedophile priests.

The Chicago documents indicate that Schaeffer was repeatedly told about McGuire's behavior with boys, but he neither investigated nor contacted authorities. He did send McGuire into treatment for a sexual disorder and at one point reportedly barred him from traveling with boys and young men. After The Boston Globe published the information from the Chicago lawsuits on Sunday, BC said it did not plan to take action against Schaeffer. But many faculty members protested.

"We made a request for his resignation and the president disagreed by arguing that BC should not respond to sensational press accounts,” said Susan Michalczyk, assistant director of the BC honors program. She says about 40 faculty members met Wednesday and asked BC President Father William Leahy for Schaeffer's resignation.

"The concern is about our personal integrity and the integrity of Boston College, and strengthening our mission of social justice and mentoring our students,” Michalczyk said.

BC students are concerned. Chris Kaniff, a sophomore from Arlington, Massachusetts, said that even though he knows Schaeffer through his family's church, he's pleased that Schaeffer is no longer on the board.

"I don't think that someone who makes these sorts of moral decisions should have any sort of leadership position in the Catholic Church,” Kaniff said.

BC said the public outrage and Schaeffer's departure are not related. The school maintains that it was Schaeffer's decision to leave his unpaid post on the board; it's a post Schaeffer's held for the past eight years and was set to retire from in June.

Officials at Georgetown University and Loyola University Chicago did not comment about whether Schaeffer will remain on their boards.

This article was originally published on April 19, 2012.

This program aired on April 19, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

Headshot of Deborah Becker

Deborah Becker Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.



More from WBUR

Listen Live