August 01, 2000 06:02pm
Jesuit Order Settles Harrassment
by: David Kravets
(SAN FRANCISCO, CA) -- A former Jesuit seminarian who said his elders tried to engage him in sexual acts has settled a harassment case with a Jesuit order, the seminarian said Tuesday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Former seminarian John Bollard claimed in a lawsuit that he was subjected to unwanted sexual advances and sexual innuendoes during his six-year tenure at the St. Ignatius college prep school in San Francisco and the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley.
``I'm happy to have it behind me and satisfied that I achieved my objectives,'' Bollard said. ``I wanted to tell the story so that people could become aware of the issues involved. And I wanted the church to take the issues seriously.''
Bollard, who quit the Jesuit order in 1996, claimed that a dozen priests at St. Ignatius and at the theology school sent him pornography and made unwelcome sexual advances.
The Jesuit order's attorney, Paul Gaspari, did not return phone calls requesting comment.
In a statement to members of the California Province, the Jesuits' regional governing body, Father Thomas H. Smolich asked for ``continuing prayers for all who were party to this litigation. May the Lord grant healing and peace to everyone.''
During the court proceedings, a legal precedent was set.
A judge originally threw out the sexual harassment case, but it was reinstated by a federal appeals panel. In December, the appeals court said the Jesuits could not avoid the lawsuit by claiming the ``ministerial exception'' to the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
That exception bars courts from applying the law in hirings, firings and promotions in religious institutions. The reasoning is that civil rights law might clash with religious principles, such as the Catholic requirement that only men can be ordained priests.
But the appellate panel found that in sexual harassment cases, there are no religious beliefs at issue.