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Vatican's new top prosecutor was involved in notorious abuse case, Boston Globe finds

November 24, 2014

The American Jesuit priest who was recently appointed as the Vatican’s top prosecutor in sex-abuse cases was involved in the handling of complaints against a notorious abusive priest, the Boston Globe has revealed.

In September, Pope Francis appointed Father Robert Geisinger, a canon lawyer who had been procurator general of the Society of Jesus, as the promoter of justice at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In that post he has primary responsibility for making the case for disciplinary action against priests charged with sexual abuse.

The Globe found, however, that Father Geisinger had advised Jesuit superiors regarding the handling of Donald McGuire, who escaped disciplinary action for years before finally being convicted on multiple criminal charges for molesting young men. McGuire, once a respected lecturer and retreat master, was dismissed from the Jesuit order in 2007 and laicized in 2008; he his now serving a 25-year prison term.

Using court documents, the Globe demonstrated that Father Geisinger was aware of complaints against McGuire as early as 1995. And continued to provide advice on handling the troubled priest through 2002. During that time, Jesuit superiors failed to inform police or alert potential victims, although many complaints had been lodged against McGuire and the priest had repeatedly violated orders to stay away from adolescent boys.

Questioned about Father Geisinger’s role in the McGuire case, Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, said that the Vatican prosecutor had “voiced concerns regarding McGuire’s conduct” while serving in the Chicago province. More recently, he said, Father Geisinger had successfully argued the case for stripping McGuire of his priestly status.

[Philip Lawler, the editor of Catholic World News, is quoted in the Globe story, questioning why the Vatican appointed to “such a high-profile, sensitive position” a priest whose involvement in a notorious case would raise questions about his willingness to prosecute abusive priests aggressively.]

 


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