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Two Jesuit priests resign from Gonzaga following reports about abusive priests on campus

December 22, 2018

Two Jesuit priests have resigned as vice presidents of Gonzaga University amid questions about their handling of sexual abuse allegations against other clergy.

Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh made the announcement Friday afternoon in a brief letter to students, faculty and staff.

The Rev. Frank Case resigned after a news report revealed he recommended a pedophile priest for a job at a Tacoma hospital three decades ago.

The Rev. Pat Lee, a former Jesuit provincial leader who oversaw campus ministry at Gonzaga, resigned a day after the Catholic Diocese of Spokane issued a statement saying the Jesuits had not informed the current bishop about accused priests living on the Gonzaga campus.

Case and Lee were already semi-retired from their vice president posts. McCulloh’s letter said Michelle Wheatley, who has served as acting vice president for mission and ministry since Aug. 1, will continue in that role.

The 80-year-old Case had been a vice president at Gonzaga since 2011, though he was perhaps better known for his other role as chaplain to the school’s nationally ranked men’s basketball team. He was a fixture at Bulldogs games at home and on the road, with a reserved seat at the end of the team’s courtside bench.

Last weekend, Case appeared in stories produced by the Northwest News Network and the Emeryville, California-based Center for Investigative Reporting, which makes the popular podcast “Reveal.”

The reporting revealed that in 1989, when Case was head of the Jesuits’ Oregon Province, he endorsed the Rev. James Poole for a position as a chaplain at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma – though Poole had been accused of sexually abusing Alaska Native women and girls as early as 1960.

Case has said he was unaware of those allegations when he endorsed Poole.

Poole eventually admitted to his abuses in a deposition in a civil lawsuit, though the statute of limitations had run out and he was never charged with a crime.

He worked at the hospital until 2003, when he retired to the Jesuit-owned Cardinal Bea House on Gonzaga’s campus, which the “Reveal” report describes as “a retirement repository for at least 20 Jesuit priests accused of sexual misconduct that predominantly took place in small, isolated Alaska Native villages and on Indian reservations across the Northwest.”

In 2015, Poole was moved from the Bea House to the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos, California. He died in March.

McCulloh has said “it was not until 2016” that he learned about the accused priests who had lived at Bea House. He also said he had not known anything about Poole’s history in Alaska until the Jesuits West Province published a list of accused priests earlier this month.

The Spokesman-Review and other news outlets began publishing stories about Poole’s misconduct as early as 2004, however, and he was the subject of a long exposé in the Stranger in February 2009, a few months before McCulloh was named interim president at Gonzaga.

McCulloh and the Jesuits West Province have both said there are no longer any accused priests living at Gonzaga. The last priest living at Gonzaga on a “safety plan” was moved to the Sacred Heart facility in California in 2016.

This story is developing.

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