Saturday, March 5, 2011

More priests accused
Part-time chaplain at St. Joe's was target of '99 sex suit
Philadelphia Daily News 215-854-5973

And the list of accused Philadelphia priests grows.
The Rev. Thomas F. Gleeson, who is a Jesuit priest and part-time chaplain at St. Joseph's University, was the target of a civil sexual-harassment lawsuit in 1999 in California.

John Bollard alleged in the suit that Gleeson and two other priests harassed him for five years while he was a seminarian at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, where Gleeson was president.

The suit was settled in 2000 out of court, with the priests denying any wrongdoing.

Bollard, who said he was 25 when the incidents started, alleged in the suit that Gleeson had asked him to masturbate with him.

The other Jesuit priests, Drew Sotelo and Anton Harris, were accused of sending suggestive pornographic pictures of naked men to Bollard and asking him to cruise gay bars.

Harris resigned from Seattle University in October 2006, days after the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported on the case.

Gleeson wasn't available for comment yesterday.

The case made national headlines because it overturned the Ministerial Exception in California's 9th Circuit Court, which had exempted the church from employee sexual-harassment suits.

Bollard, now an administrator at UCLA, was shocked to hear of Gleeson's new job at St. Joe's, which he landed in October.

"The audacity of an institution like St. Joe's to put an alleged sexual offender in a public position of authority is unbelievable at this day and age," Bollard said.

St. Joe's insisted that it went through the proper steps to hire Gleeson and knew of his past.

"He was approved for pastoral service by the Archdiocese, and no objections were received from the Jesus Maryland Province," St. Joe's spokeswoman Harriet Goodheart said, referring to the region's Jesuit society. "We were aware of the allegations of 11 years ago, which he denied, and was cleared for assignment."

St. Joe's has not made staff or students aware of his previous allegations. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, which has been outlining additional cases against priests since a Philadelphia grand jury indicted four priests on sex charges last month, unsuccessfully sought to have Gleeson removed as a board member at West Virginia's Wheeling Jesuit University in October 2009.

"Maybe he is reformed, maybe he will never harass someone again," Bollard said, "but maybe a zebra doesn't change its stripes."

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