Father Kevin O’Brien, a telegenic Jesuit who led the Catholic prayers for Joe Biden for his inauguration as president and previously as vice president, has been put on administrative leave while his university investigates “impropriety,” according to a Santa Clara University statement.
“I have been informed by the Provincial of the USA West Province that the Jesuit Provincial Office recently received accounts that Father O’Brien exhibited behaviors in adult settings, consisting primarily of conversations, which may be inconsistent with established Jesuit protocols and boundaries,” John M. Sobrato, the Chair of Santa Clara University Board of Trustees, wrote in a note on the university’s website.
“An independent investigation into these accounts is being conducted on behalf of the USA West Province and the conclusions of the Province’s process will be shared with the Santa Clara University Board of Trustees. Father O’Brien was placed on leave from his position as University President for the duration of the investigation by the USA West Province consistent with its protocols. He has agreed to cooperate fully with the investigation and honor the process that he affirms annually as part of his ongoing Jesuit training.”
Sobrato added that they would not be making comments or giving updates until the investigation ran its course.
O’Brien, 54, who is a regular contributor to CNN and has been a strong advocate of transparency over the Catholic Church’s allegations, said at a university round table in 2018 that many students approached him with issues and allegations of sexual misconduct and cover up in the church. He said he also struggled with whether or not to stay in the church himself. “Do I stay or do I go? I can only say please dig deep, discern the voices. The Church will set us free,” he said, according to the university’s transcript of the talk. Then he apologized for his slip of the tongue, which implied that the church would carry more weight than secular authorities. “I’m sorry,” he said, laughing. “The truth will set us free; John’s Gospel. And we hope the Church is a part of that.”