Vatican appointee alleged to have aided child abuser priest
Holy See’s ‘promoter of justice’ Fr Robert J Geisinger reportedly allowed abuser to remain in ministry
Pope Francis swings an incense thurible during a canonisation ceremony to elevate six men and women to sainthood, in St Peter’s square at the Vatican on Sunday. Photograph: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters
The Boston Globe has claimed that US Jesuit Fr Robert J Geisinger, the man appointed as the Holy See’s “promoter of justice” last September by Pope Francis, was himself “one of several Catholic officials” who allowed a notorious abuser priest to remain in ministry back in the 1990s.
As the promoter of justice at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Fr Geisinger is de facto the Vatican’s chief attorney and the senior investigator into accusations of clerical sex abuse brought against individual priests.
The abuser priest in question, Jesuit Fr Donald J McGuire, is serving a 25-year prison sentence, having been convicted of molesting two boys in a 2006 judgment in Wisconsin and also convicted on federal charges in 2008.
The Globe claims to have examined documents, including church records produced during lawsuits filed by Fr McGuire’s victims, which show Fr Geisinger had detailed knowledge of complaints made against Fr McGuire as far back as 1995.
The Catholic journalist and writer couple Philip and Leila Lawler, who looked after one of Fr McGuire’s victims during the 1999-2000 school year, told the Globe they had complained to both the boy’s school, Trivium School, and to the Chicago Province (of Jesuits) about Fr McGuire’s behaviour.
In an interview with the Globe in 2012, Mr Lawler said: “The boy was not abused while he was here but he was abused after he left us, after we had communicated our fears to [McGuire’s] Jesuit superiors...That makes me livid.”
Given that he has served in Rome since 2001 as general procurator for the Jesuits, the full extent of Fr Geisinger’s role in the McGuire case is not clear. Nonetheless, the Globe points out that church documents made public by lawsuits indicate Fr Geisinger and other Jesuits tried to limit Fr McGuire’s contact with young people.
However, the Globe says the Jesuit authorities failed to report Fr McGuire to the civil authorities.
Senior Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi last weekend expressed every confidence in Fr Geisinger, saying that he expected him “to do an excellent job as promoter of justice, based on his prosecution record, his commitment to justice, and his concern for victims”.
Fr Lombardi also pointed out that Fr Geisinger had “voiced concerns regarding McGuire’s conduct” while working with the Chicago Jesuits and that he had also presented the case for McGuire’s laicisation in 2008.
The Vatican spokesman also noted that Pope Benedict had acted on Fr Geisinger’s request in under two months.