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Six Jesuit priests with one-time links to Houston accused of sex abuse

December 8, 2018

Six Jesuit priests who once worked in Houston have been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors decades ago, including five who once worked at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in southwest Houston and one who served within the St. Joseph Church.

The six were included in a list of 42 names released by the Jesuits U.S. Central and Southern Province on Friday morning. Their periods of alleged abuse occurred decades ago between the 1960s and 1980s. Four of those are deceased.

Therese Meyerhoff, director of communications for the Jesuits’ Central and Southern Province, said all those listed Friday are no longer serving in public ministry, although four remain members of the province. She said many were removed after a series of allegations were released in 2002.

“The church and religious communities have really done a lot to make places safer for children,” Meyerhoff said. “There are no recent allegations in our province, so, hopefully, people will feel some assurance from that.”

The Province noted that the list is not meant to imply those named have been found guilty of a crime or are liable for civil claims. It also said inclusion on the list does not necessarily mean the allegations are true or correct, and that many allegations were made several years or decades after the alleged abuse.

Darby Duffin, director of communications for Strake Jesuit College Prep, said he hopes the information released by the Province will promote trust and healing through transparency. He urged anyone who has experienced sexual abuse as a minor to report the offense to local law enforcement or child protective services.

“Nothing is more important to us than the safety and well-being of our students,” Duffin said. “The school has a zero-tolerance policy regarding the sexual abuse of minors. We have comprehensive measures and policies in place to ensure a safe environment for students. Strake Jesuit actively promotes a culture of accountability and conducts training on mandatory reporting, proper boundaries and sexual abuse detection and prevention. All employees undergo criminal background checks and participate in regular safe environment training.”

Among former Strake Jesuits accused of sexually abusing minors include:

Rev. Jody Blanchard

Blanchard allegedly abused at least one minor in the 1980s and was ordained in 1983. He was born in 1953, and left the Society of Jesus in 1994.

Rev. Thomas J. Naughton

Naughton died in 2012 and was removed from the ministry in 2002. He allegedly abused at least one minor in the 1970s. Although he was removed from ministry in 2002, he remained a member of the Society of Jesus until 2009. He was born in 1933 and ordained in 1965.

Rev. Vincent A. Orlando

Orlando allegedly abused at least one minor victim in the 1980s and was removed from the ministry in 2002. He currently lives under supervision. He was born in 1941, and ordained in 1974.

Rev. Charles G. Coyle

Coyle died in 2015 and was removed from the ministry in 2002. He allegedly abused more than one minor in the 1960s and 1970s. He was born in 1932, ordained in 1965, and left the Society of Jesus in 2004.

Rev. Edward D. DeRussy

DeRussy died in 2001 and was restricted from ministry with minors in 1991. He allegedly abused more than one minor in the 1970s and was ordained in 1957. He was born in 1926. He also served a stint at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Nassau Bay, near League City.

The Jesuit from St. Joseph’s Church accused on the list is:

Rev. Austin N. Park

Park died in 2015 and allegedly abused more than one victim in the 1960s. He already had been removed from ministry because of dementia when the allegations were received. He was born in 1918 and ordained in 1955.

Meyerhoff said some of the names contained on the list have appeared publicly in the past but she did not know which. She said the church began compiling the names several months ago by reviewing archived records. The Western Province also released a list of 111 priests that have been accused of sexually abusing minors on Friday.

In a statement, Provincial Ronald Mercier said those abused by a church they trusted deserve transparency and a response that recognizes past missteps and seeks a new way forward.

“The storm that the Church experiences today calls forth from us an unprecedented and yet needed response,” Mercier said. “Silence in the face of the events of recent months cannot be an option.”

shelby.webb@chron.com

twitter.com/shelbywebb

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