Pedophile lawsuit filed against Fr. John Powell, nationally known Jesuit author and professor

From the SNAP blog, posted on 11.6.2008.

I spotted this sad story on Kathy Shaw’s Abuse Tracker, which is sponsored by bishop-accountability.org.

I recall listening to John Powell’s inspiring audio tapes during silent-retreat meals at Loyola Retreat House, Faulkner, MD, outside of Washington, D.C.

* * *

Thursday, November 6, 2008

New lawsuit is filed against high profile Jesuit author and professor

New pedophile priest lawsuit is filed

Predator is nationally-known author & professor

He belongs to high profile Catholic order, the Jesuits

His supervisors knew of his crimes but ignored them, lawsuit says

Accused of molesting at least 8 girls, he wasn’t removed until 2003

SNAP urges others who “saw, suspected, or suffered” his misdeeds to come forward

At a news conference, clergy molestation victims and attorneys will announce and discuss a new child sex abuse lawsuit against a nationally-known Jesuit priest and professor who now faces allegations of assaulting at least eight girls.

TODAY, Thursday, Nov. 6, at 1:15 PM

At the law office of Kerns, Frost & Pearlman, Three First National Plaza, 70 W. Madison Suite 5350 (corner of Clark) in downtown Chicago

A Michigan woman who was abused by this priest, two attorneys who represent victims of this priest, and the founder of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org)

A photo of Powell is available at http://www.bishop-accountability.org/il_chicago/#powell

Fr. John J. Powell is accused of abusing of at least 7 girls in 1960s and 1970s, including the “Jane Doe” who is filing this new lawsuit. She met Powell as a teenager around 1967, when she attended Rosarian Academy, a Catholic girls’ school in West Palm Beach, Florida. During private “counseling sessions,” Powell made her sit on his lap, kiss him, and forced her to take her school uniform off and fondled her.

Powell was a professor at several universities who also “frequently traveled and gave retreats,” and wrote several books that were widely popular in religious circles. He was first sued in 2003 and again in 2006. Six of his victims settled their litigation in 2005.

According to the new suit, Powell engaged in “a pattern of sexually abusing Loyola University students and other minor and adult students.” His supervisors were repeatedly informed, it says, “of Powell’s pedophilic behavior and his propensity to abuse but failed to act on that knowledge. The Jesuits “did not inform law enforcement officials, students members of the Catholic community or the public at large of Powell’s wrongful and criminal conduct.” Instead, they claimed that “Powell was a priest in good standing and allowed Powell to continue in ministry and conduct numerous retreats where he could have access to and abuse children.”

He worked at West Baden University (1961-1965), Bellermine School of Theology of Loyola University (1965-1968), Loyola University of Chicago (1968-1979), and Loyola University (1979-2001). Powell is now retired in Michigan.

Doe is in her 50s and now lives in Florida. Her suit is being filed today in Cook County Circuit Court.

Attorney Jeff Anderson of St. Paul MN (612) 817 8665
Attorney Marc Pearlman of Chicago (773) 368 014
Barbara Blaine of Chicago, SNAP founder and president (312) 399 4747 cell
David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP National Director (314) 566-9790 cell

    24 Responses to “Pedophile lawsuit filed against Fr. John Powell, nationally known Jesuit author and professor”

  1. Thomas Says:

    It doesn’t matter if it happens from the top down, or the bottom up…this is how our Church loses its holiness and its credibility. And… hierarchy wonders why we dare to disagree with them.

  2. clevelandgirl Says:

    I used to like this guy’s writings years ago when I was still a catholic – he was very upbeat and positive and not dogmatic – definitely a modernizer. What a disappointment – I’ll now have to put a note in his books that he is a pedophile.

    He had a great comment about unconditional love – something about people thinking that god is constantly keeping score, thinking as he peruses his lists (I might have the context slightly wrong but the meaning is correct) “I’ve got your number – it’s a fraction!” We still quote that, either to indicate that someone really is a creep and their number is a fraction, or to say you’re really OK and your number is *not* a fraction.

    It looks like his number is a fraction as well.

    This is almost as disappointing as learning that the Fruge (Frugal Gourmet) is into boys (and a xtian minister). Sheesh.

    I just finished up reading An Irish Tragedy. He appears to be another one of them. Interesting that the author makes the point that the Irish pedopriests were nearly as much into females as males when all the usual propaganda tries to make it a “gay” problem. My perps were Italian and Lebanese, so it didn’t dawn on me that this is predominantly an Irish problem, but looking through the bishop accountability database shows many, many priests with Irish surnames (and many who are Irish but not reflected in their surnames). But then, I went to a predominantly Irish catholic school run by the Merciless Sisters (of Ireland), so why shouldn’t I be surprised? It appears that *new* cases of abuse are being committed by Latin American priests, but older cases recently uncovered are coming from *all over*. Not an Irish problem but one related to sexual repression, enforced celibacy (of clergy and the public), and hypocrisy.

    BTW, I know of another published author who is a pedophile – he writes on Eastern/Byzantine Catholic subjects. Would be nice if he’s taken down as well – if anyone can catch him…

    And, hey, wasn’t Leo Buscaglia also a pedopriest? I know he was a priest (who got good airplay on public TV, like John Powell). My apologies to his memory if he wasn’t also a pedo.

  3. Kitty O'Shea Says:

    The pederastic problem in Ireland is deeply rooted in the culture of the country in both town and rural situations. So is incest. This is largely due to over-breeding and cramped conditions at home. Although both have now largely been alleviated in recent years, the pattern of abuse still exists and has become habitual in many families, including those who produced(d) priests and religious. In reaction to this Jansenism crept into Irish spirituality, partly in reaction to the festering pattern of abuse generally. When the exposures started in the 90’s in Ireland and abroad the reaction of largely powerless people against religion acted as a way of escape from a cruel, hypocritical and oppressive situation protected by clericalism. John Powell’s record embodies the abuse of priestly power and trust and the crass collaboration of his religious superiors in maintaning a united front or, to use a foul Irish expression, ‘keeping it in the family’. May he get his just deserts.

  4. Augusta Wynn Says:

    John Powell, just like his fellow pederast jesuit Donald McGuire, still believed himself to be a The Great Instructor, worthy to teach others how to live. I wonder why he hasn’t been named a bishop, or yet the president of the Bishops Conference. He must feel so left out.


  5. Kate Says:

    I have just been listening to an old John Powell tape, moved to tears by his deep understanding of human frailty. Perhaps, difficult though it is, those of us who have been previously inspired by John Powell’s words, can find a modicum of forgiveness for his weakness and vulnerability. Many will say he deserves his very public humiliation. Cerainly what he has done is terribly wrong , but how many of us can look inside ourselves and our applauling failures to act, either by ommission or commission. ‘Judge not’, is easy to say but much harder to live, and harder still to live; ‘forgivness’. God forgive me the desire to jump on the bandwaggon of blame and projection…………

  6. Tim C Says:

    One of my favorite priests to listen to, pass on his tapes to my protestant friends was John Powell. I thought “this guy has really got so much figured out”. It had been 10 years or so since I listened to him so I looked him up on the internet and my heart sank as I learned of his sins! Does this nullify all the good he has done? Can a murderer do good? I believe what is good; what was good, is still good. It is natural to disregard all when such henious assault on children is involved. My first inclination was the same, yet I must admit that he did have a gift of understanding and teaching, regardless of his sickness. So how can someone so gifted in the Lord commit such evil? I’ll let God sort that out. I’m very very disappointed, and I hope those that were harmed will be healed. I also will pray for John Powell. His teaching helped me during a time of crisis. I will remain a Catholic, (even though I know it is filled with dysfunctional people; many of whom need to atone for thier sins, many should be in prison) because I believe it is God’s Church, not man’s. If it were a perfect church I would be happy, but there is no such thing. I believe there is forgiveness in this church… and that is a gift I cannot turn my back on.
    PS Maybe married priests isn’t the answer, but it certainly deserves consideration.

  7. LorR Says:

    For more than 25 years I have kept and read and re-read a copy of a book written by John Powell, entitled “He Touched Me” It is and was a beautiful tracing of his pilgrimage of prayer and life as a priest – which touched upon his search for a loving God. He wrote about his struggle in determining whether or not he was truly “called by God” to become a priest, but then, along the road in his career, truly finds “Jesus.” Without continuing to write about the entire text of the book, I am here to write about the total shock that engulfed me when I came to the internet to order several copies of that same book to give to friends – and learned about the sexual abuses to which this man-priest admitted. Shock hardly describes my reaction! How could a man who wrote so beautifully about counsel on so many on spiritual issues have committed such sins–I thought. God seemed to have spoken me through this discovery to remind me that all men and women are sinners, regardless of their walk or profession in life. We were all born with sin and priests were not exempt from fleshly sins or desires. It reminded me of a local, well-loved leader in our community who has been honored and memorialized after his death – whose death was a result of HIV virus and who was found to be a homosexual predator in a distant state in his earlier work career. Few if any people in the community knew of his past and are left with the love and adulation they had for this man. Again, a man lost in his fleshly desires – and loved by the people he served in his community. I can’t be the judge of servants of God and man who fall to sin in this earthly life.

  8. LizDexic Says:

    LorR…you are delusional if you think this is about all people being sinners. This man took people in his trust using his religion and then RAPED them. Young girls, who had done nothing to deserve this. His words that “touched you” are the words of a hypocrite and an evil, evil man…who is responsible for many many girls losing their faith. And these people are recidivists.
    You cannot cure them.
    It is the height of selfishness to disregard the lifelong pain this man has inflicted on others.

  9. Lyd Says:

    I disagree with LizDexic,

    I have been inspired by some of his books that I read as well. Even if these accusation by the victims are true, I am sure he is being honest admitting his own frailty in his writings.

    This is to remind us to be really careful, that all of us “walks on a tiny strings and very prone to fall”. Even human such as Father John is not immune for such things.

    Being celibate is no more difficult than being faithfull to one spouse. It is just two different ways of living. When live to its fullest, celibate way is very beautiful.

    I pray for the victims but also that he will stand up, as Jesus loves him unconditionally.
    God loves us unconditionally too, so don’t dissapoint God. Contraception, abortion, cohabitation is no less destructive than whatever abuse reported recently.

    I choose to do celibate, and I do it freely with my full intention.

  10. Anh Says:

    It’s an old poem from an unknown author in an old Ann Lander column, but I think it applied to everyone today:

    When some fellow yields to temptation,
    And breaks a conventional law,
    We look for no good in his makeup,
    Oh, Lord, how we look for the flaw!
    No one asks, “Who did the tempting?”
    Nor allows for the battles he’s fought.
    His name becomes food for the jackals,
    The saints who have never been caught.

    I’m a sinner, Oh , Lord, and I know it.
    I am weak, and I blunder and fail.
    I am tossed on life’s stormy ocean
    Like a ship that is caught in the gale.
    I am willing to trust in Thy mercy,
    To keep the commandments You taught.
    But deliver me, Lord, from the judgment
    Of the saints who have never been caught.

  11. Cathy Leo Says:

    This saddens me so! I just picked up his book-Unconditional Love- to read again after all these years! There are so many truths in this book-to be daunted by this! I think this is why we are children of Adam and Eve-the original sin thing. Thank God for Jesus Christ-we’d be in hell for sure!

  12. Rose Sullivan Says:

    Whew, what a shock to discover this information several years ago. How could someone such as Powell with his secret life, write such a book as He Touched Me. There is no doubt in my mind the author had experienced a spiritual experience. As a new member of Alcoholics Anonomous it was my road map in knowing I had come out of the darkness into the light. I had the opportunity to recommend it to other AA members who also found it helpful. Does anyone have any thought on this. Was this guy so delusional he really believed the abuse was within his calling? As an aside does anyone remember in which he gave the definition of a phony. It was a great line and I am unable to find it.

  13. Mark Gow Says:

    This both saddens me and shocks me. Reading “He touched me” and listening to his talks on the heart of man and the heart of God were so inspiring to me when I was younger.
    I actually transferred the taped talks to cd quite recently and shared them with others. One of the people I’d shared them with had looked online to see if there were any other talks etc by John Powell and found out about all this :( They were reluctant to tell me about it.
    I’m very mixed about it all, was it weakness spur of the moment with him or was it planned? It seems to have been planned and where the book “he touched me” was something beautiful to me before, now I can’t even look at it. I wonder if the title was deliberately suggestive, I thought about how his victims must feel reading this title.

  14. Thomas Mathew M Says:

    Is all this true? Many a time sexual misconduct are trumped up.

    His books – I have read only one ‘Unconditional Love’ and the story of Tom in it – are no doubt excellent and inspiring for they express a lot of truth. If it is true then may be Priests who do not marry should take a conditional vow so that they can marry even later. For as St Paul says it is better to marry than to burn. There are demands of the body and gospel work is not so result oriented as other professions are – for many are called but few are chosen and therefore frustration may creep in and perhaps the thought if one should have married and led a normal family life and shared the gospel. Leaders should take the lead to allow this conditional vow and allowance to marry if so required and thereby ensure that such situations do not arise and the soul is blessed and safe

  15. kryga Says:

    Before we judge the priest, we need to know whether the accusations are credible or not. The Jesuits got a lot of money from his books and the lawyers know this too.

  16. gabriel Says:

    guys like powell just prove God right every step of the way:
    For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
    Romans 1:18-32
    love in Christ!

  17. Tom Says:

    Yes, the accusations are true. Powell is dead now but admitted to his crimes several years ago. I’m a teacher and have used Fr. Powell’s materials many times with my students and I’m also struggling with what to do regarding his writings. It seems disrespectful to the victims to allow his legacy and name to continue concerning the seriousness of his crimes.

    It’s much too simple to accuse celebacy of being the problem, though. To imply that a serial abuser would be perfectly fine if he were married and could enact his perversions on his wife is delusional. This has much more to do with power, manipulation and giving in to addictive impulses. The guy understood what was good (that much we can gather from his writings), but created a seperate life for himself that he tried to keep secret. Like an alcoholic or a porn addict, he likely felt remorse, knew intellectually that what he was doing was wrong, but allowed himself to crawl deeper and deeper into this destructive life – classic Jekyll and Hyde. He became a monster and seriously wounded at least 7 people – perhaps more.

    I’m a faithful Catholic, I love Christ and his Church, and I’m very thankful that these discusting and evil crimes are coming to light and governance is being forced to adjust to take these crimes seriously. This will lead to a better Church that looks after all of its members. It has been truly shameful that these acts were allowed to occur.

  18. Stephen K Says:

    Oh, no. I have only just now discovered this, by sheer accident. I’m profoundly shocked. Like many of the other posters here, I read his books and heard his tapes. In 1977 he gave two lectures entitled “The Heart of Man” and “The Heart of God” in Sydney. I first heard the tapes then and I cannot express how moving and how insightful and how helpful I found them. So much so that until this day I have never hesitated to speak about them, about him and pass them on to others.

    But what do I do now? Like some others, I cannot simply now say that none of their power and effectiveness didn’t happen, weren’t true. His messages are an integral part of my spiritual development and understanding of….so much. If I spurn his words now, if I deny them their power or goodness because of revulsion and sorrow I feel at his actions with those in his trust, then in some way I’m denying a fact and an essential part of my own consciousness and existence.

    And yet, I won’t be able to listen to these tapes, read his books, without thinking of this. His words, my memory, will be tainted, changed forever.

    Somehow I think I have to keep the two separate: after all I, and everyone, are sinners by degree too. There’s no denying that some sins – like sexual abuse, rape and murder – fill us rightly with particular shame and horror and are criminal, but how can I respond in a “holier than thou” manner? I know that the Church’s protection of its sexually abusive clergy was party a function of its mentality that theology always trumps civil practical jurisprudence – hence its language of “sin” rather than “crime”, but, without letting it off the hook for that, it still remains true, I think, that the notions of “sin”, “sinfulness” and “forgiveness” are important notions not to be forgotten when we are confronted by hurts, pain and the suffering of victims. My own view is that Christianity can still make sense – even more sense actually – without virgin births, physical resurrections and a host of other things, but it is nothing without Calvary, and the 70 times 7.

    Gee, this is really difficult. These are just my immediate initial thoughts. I may think things more clearly later. But my day – hopefully not much more – is suddenly very sad and spoiled.

  19. Amy Says:

    Like so many of you all, I am learning this for the first time, and it’s hit me hard between the eyes, because his books ministered so much to me back in the 70’s. After ingesting all of this and trying to make sense of it…for me, it’s a lesson that No One but Jesus should ever be elevated to that level, in our hearts….because no one, but Jesus, could ever live up to that, nor should they. I think we all want to put people, we admire, on a pedestal….but is that really fair?

    As many have expressed their feelings, I too am deeply saddened by this. But, if Jesus were sitting with all of us now, maybe He would remind us of what John 8:7 tells us:
    ‘And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” ‘

  20. Gus Says:

    Deeply saddened and shocked to learn of this.
    I had some Psychotherapy a couple of years ago and was given his book ‘ why am I afraid to tell you who I am ‘ to read. It was insprational – suddenly I was not alone and the kind of stuff I was feeling was happening to others enough for him to write about it. I have since been working my way through his other books and again found them very insightful and of great value in my wish to get to know myself a bit better.
    My heart goes out to those he transgressed.

  21. Muthoni Says:

    I am looking desperately for Heart of man and Heart of God. I have not been able to find any one of them anywhere. Does anyone here have copies that I may buy or borrow? Thank you so much.

  22. Rob Says:

    I was heartsick when I learned of the charges against Fr Powell. I’m neither a Catholic nor particularly religious, but I was inspired by his books, especially Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? and Why Am I Afraid To Love? While I’m still inspired by the power of his message, I’m more cynical about the messenger and others like him>

  23. Anne Says:

    Oh how shocking as I have just now read about Fr. Powell. I listened to a few of his tapes in the early 90’s and found him so inspirational and spiritually uplifting. Deeply saddened also to learn of his passing.

  24. Mary G. Says:

    I was involved with Powell for years. Most of the time I was underage. Yesterday I discovered these
    articles. I had no idea that there were so many people affected by his actions. I need help resolving this situation in which I didn’t know what was going on the whole time, even fifty years later. Of course,I feel guilty that I couldn’t have saved so many damaged people. But we just went along with it and didn’t question it. It must have been my fault anyway. Thank you for listening to my story and
    I hope in this new era that it won’t as easy to condone this situation as it once was. 3/9/14

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