Transparency. It’s a common theme in Loyolan board editorials about the University’s actions. But the current Loyolan staff has never been more serious in its call for transparency than now.
News broke last Tuesday, Sept. 11, that Brother William Farrington, S.J. – who worked at LMU for 15 years, from 1987 to 2002 – has been accused of sexually molesting a former student at San Jose’s Bellarmine College Preparatory and of “improprieties” involving two former students at Jesuit High School near Sacramento – both schools that Farrington worked at prior to arriving at LMU (See “Jesuit accused of sexual molestation spent 15 years working at LMU,” Page 1). Although no lawsuit has been or is currently filed against Farrington, both Bellarmine Prep and Jesuit High’s presidents have called the accusations “credible.”
Both schools made sure to inform hundreds of alumni who attended during Farrington’s tenure, urging anyone who may have been abused by Farrington to come forward. Both presidents wrote letters about the situation, apologizing for the potential harm done. Spokesman for Jesuit High School Jordan Blair is quoted in the Sept. 12 Sacramento Bee article “Ex-Jesuit High teacher accused of inappropriate conduct with student” as saying, “We are acting with full transparency. … We wanted to make sure this information was out there.”
When the Loyolan asked LMU’s Vice President for Communications and Government Relations Kathleen Flanagan whether the University would follow suit, she said, “As far as I know, there was nothing that happened at LMU, so there would be no reason to do it.”
That’s just about the worst reasoning.
As Flanagan said, no accusations of abuse by Farrington during his time at LMU have been reported yet. However, the University’s response to these serious allegations is more than troubling. No one likes to deal with upsetting and delicate situations like this, but that does not warrant inaction. It sounds as though LMU could stand to learn from Bellarmine Prep and Jesuit High School, both of which responded proactively to the situation.
What’s more, if Farrington abused students at former schools, “it’s rationally impossible that he was celibate while he was [at LMU],” according to Patrick Wall, a former Benedictine monk, priest and canon lawyer who has assisted prosecutors and civil lawyers on Roman Catholic sexual abuse cases around the country and been involved in litigation with the Jesuits of the California Province since 2002. Wall added that expert testimony indicates that sexual abuse offenders “can’t stop themselves.”
The University has a responsibility to alert its alumni to the situation and open lines of communication in case anyone has something to report. No accusations now does not mean there will definitely be no allegations in the future.
The case gets more troubling. Blair said in the same Sacramento Bee article that when Farrington was removed from Jesuit High School in 1987, he was also barred from working with minors. As Wall told the Loyolan, “We all know that there are freshmen on campus who are 17 years old, we all know that there are students coming to campus for camps and activities that are under 18 years old and we all know that there are a lot of kids who are on accelerated programs taking college courses. There are opportunities to get to minors [at universities like LMU].”
But whether the University even knew about these allegations and the restrictions placed on Farrington when he came to campus in 1987 remains a mystery.
So here’s what the Loyolan has to say: Enough with evading the issue, LMU. Be transparent. Tell us the facts. Hopefully, even with this information, no one at LMU during Farrington’s time at the University will come forward. But, with the unfortunate chance that that is not the case, give them the opportunity to tell their story. Reporting abuse takes innumerable levels of strength. Show that you care. Extend your hand.