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Jenky said Monday that an investigation around 1990 concluded that (his accusor) Burtchaell was guilty of engaging in sexual activities with male graduate students, a violation of his vows as a priest

2/3/2004 8:58:00 PM by University of Notre Dame - Peoria Journal Star

PEORIA - Bishop Daniel Jenky on Monday called accusations that he covered up sexual misconduct by a priest at the University of Notre Dame "ridiculous."

The accusations were published Thursday in a "viewpoint" piece in The Observer, an independent student newspaper at Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. The viewpoint was signed by "Edward Fitzpatrick," who was identified as "alumni, '80 BBA, '83 JD."

Jenky was a priest in campus ministry at Notre Dame from 1975 to 1997.

The writer accused the Rev. Richard McBrien, a Notre Dame theology professor, of concealing the homosexual behavior of the Rev. James Burtchaell. Burtchaell was a professor and former administrator at Notre Dame who resigned his teaching position in 1991 after accusations of sexual misconduct were made and an investigation carried out by the Congregation of Holy Cross, an order of priests.

In a letter in The Observer on Friday, McBrien denied a cover-up, saying he actually brought the allegations to the attention of the university provost.

Jenky, now bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Peoria and a Holy Cross priest, previously lived in the same dorm as Burtchaell and some other priests. As rector of Dillon Hall, Jenky oversaw 400 student residents.

Fitzpatrick wrote in The Observer, "There is compelling evidence that Jenky was aware of Burtchaell's conduct."

No evidence was offered, though, and Jenky denied the claim. Andrew Soukup, editor-in-chief of The Observer, said Monday the newspaper didn't investigate Fitzpatrick's claims regarding Jenky.

The viewpoint piece has been making the e-mail rounds since it was published, Jenky said Monday. He said a priest at St. Mary's Church in El Paso reported parishioners were upset by the allegations.

"This is being spread around the diocese," Jenky said, adding he doesn't know who Edward Fitzpatrick is.

Shortly after being installed as bishop in 2002, Jenky updated policies regarding sexual misconduct as a scandal was rolling through the U.S. Catholic Church. Over the next few months, he removed several priests from public ministry due to allegations of sexual misconduct.

Jenky said Monday that an investigation around 1990 concluded that Burtchaell was guilty of engaging in sexual activities with male graduate students, a violation of his vows as a priest. Jenky was a religious superior of the Holy Cross Order at the time of the investigation and removal of Burtchaell.

The bishop laughed at suggestions in the Observer piece that he and McBrien were friendly with Burtchaell. McBrien, Jenky said, is on the opposite end of the theological spectrum from Burtchaell. "To say they were friends strains credulity," Jenky said.

Jenky also had a rocky relationship with Burtchaell, he said, though he also admired him as a scholar. But the older priest was openly critical of how Jenky ran Dillon Hall. "There were times he made my life a living hell," the bishop said.

But Jenky said he was never aware Burtchaell had violated his vow of chastity or done anything improper while living at Dillon Hall.

"At that time, I would have been amazed" to find out about such behavior, especially given Burtchaell's conservative theological credentials and reputation, Jenky said, adding he would have turned him in.

"When the truth came forward, despite the pain, he was removed," Jenky said.

Burtchaell was sent to serve at a home for retired nuns for a while and has had an "extremely restricted" status ever since, Jenky said.

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