The Jesuit priest who presided over an inaugural Mass for President Joe Biden is under investigation for unspecified allegations and is on leave from his position as president of Santa Clara University in Northern California, according to a statement from the college’s board of trustees.
Father Kevin O’Brien allegedly “exhibited behaviors in adult settings, consisting primarily of conversations, which may be inconsistent with established Jesuit protocols and boundaries,” according to the statement by John M. Sobrato, the board chairman.
O’Brien gave the service at Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, one of the most prominent Catholic churches in Washington, in January for Biden, who is the nation’s second Catholic president, as well as Vice President Kamala Harris, their families and elected officials before the inauguration ceremony at the U.S. Capitol.
From the Santa Clara University website:
Dear Santa Clara University Community,
I write to you with an important update. 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. 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.
The Board of Trustees takes these accounts seriously. We also respect the need for a thorough investigation and support the actions being taken by the USA West Province Office. We reserve any further action on the part of the Trustees until we have fully reviewed the final results of the investigation.
The Trustees support those who came forward to share their accounts. It is important that anyone who witnesses actions they believe are inconsistent with SCU’s values or rules is able to share their concerns and have confidence that they will be taken seriously. This is a value that Father O’Brien also affirms, in this case or any other. At the same time, we fully respect Father O’Brien’s right to a fair and impartial investigation, and we appreciate his strong belief that any complaints involving him should be held to the highest standard and carefully and independently investigated. As you know, transparency and accountability have been hallmarks of his tenure thus far, and Father O’Brien insists that they must apply especially now.
On March 16th and 17th, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees was briefed on the matter and confirmed Father O’Brien’s appointment of Provost Lisa Kloppenberg to serve as Acting President of Santa Clara University while he is on leave. To help during this period, Chief Operating Officer John Ottoboni and Chief of Staff Molly McDonald will also temporarily assume additional responsibilities.
I would ask that everyone please allow the investigation to run its course. We will not be providing interim updates, but will communicate the final results of the investigation.
Concerns should be reported to Mary Pat Panighetti at the USA West Provincial Office at 408-893-8398 or firstname.lastname@example.org or the Chair of the Board of Trustees at email@example.com.
John M. Sobrato ’83
Chair, Santa Clara University Board of Trustees