Allegations of child sexual abuse against a Jesuit priest who now resides at the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos surfaced Friday as a Bay Area man said he hopes others will come forward to force authorities to pursue a criminal prosecution.
San Francisco resident William Lynch said he has suffered nearly three decades of irreparable emotional and psychological harm, and attempted suicide two times, because of what happened to him at the hands of then-theology student Jerold Lindner during a church-led, family camping trip in the Santa Cruz Mountains in 1975.
“I still have nightmares,” said Lynch, now 35. “I’m never going to be who I was supposed to be. This has destroyed my life.”
Lindner was removed from active ministry in Los Angeles in 1997 in response to a civil suit filed by Lynch that year. In September of this year, the priest was sent to Sacred Heart. A retirement and medical center for about 65 Jesuit Roman Catholic priests and brothers, it has become a place where priests suspected of abusing children can be safely housed.
Lynch was 7 when his family attended a weekend camp-out sponsored by the Christian Family Movement, at the time a loose affiliation of Christian families with connections to the Oakland Diocese. Lindner, who was studying in Berkeley at the time, was there. And it was there, inside a tent, where Lynch alleges the abuse took place.
Lynch said he and his then-4-year-old brother were sodomized by Lindner, forced to perform sexual acts on each other, and told they would go to hell if they told anyone what happened.
A year after he filed suit in 1997, Jesuit officials agreed to a confidential settlement, but Lynch said he won’t be satisfied until Lindner and the church are held criminally responsible. Lindner, 58, reached Friday night at the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos, refused an interview request. “I’m not interested in talking,” he said.
The Los Angeles Times reports today that Lindner had been abusing children, including members of his own family, since the 1950s, two decades before he entered the priesthood. The abuse continued after he was ordained in 1976, the Times said.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s detectives and the district attorney’s office are investigating the claims of 10 men and women from Los Angeles County, the Bay Area and suburban Phoenix who told the Times that Lindner abused them on Sundays after Mass, during holiday gatherings and on family camping trips nearly always while wearing his clerical collar.
Jesuit leaders said they first learned about Lindner’s past a decade ago, when his brother told them that the priest had sexually abused three nieces, a nephew and a younger sibling. After sending Lindner for a psychiatric evaluation, Jesuit superiors deemed the allegations not credible and put him back in a classroom at Loyola High School, a private, all-boys prep school near downtown Los Angeles where he was teaching.
Lindner was accepted for Jesuit training in June 1964, and sent to the Sacred Heart Novitiate in Los Gatos for two years of study. In 1970, he was assigned to teach at St. Ignatius High School in San Francisco. He stayed in the Bay Area more than a decade, enrolling in 1973 at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, where he was ordained. He returned to St. Ignatius, where he taught English from 1976 to 1982.
When Lynch’s allegations surfaced in 1997, Lindner was removed from active ministry, said the Rev. Thomas H. Smolich, head of the California Province of the Society of Jesus.
Smolich, who said the Lynch settlement was about $600,000, said Lindner was eventually brought to Sacred Heart because, “for lack of a better word, it’s a safe house for people accused of these actions.”
Including Lindner, the center has housed five clergy who have been accused or convicted of sex-related crimes.
Lindner arrived at the center from Los Angeles in early September, around the time the province settled a $7.5 million civil suit brought by two mentally retarded dishwashers who said they suffered years of sexual abuse at Sacred Heart.
“I’m quite aware of the allegations,” Smolich said. “I am very sorry for the pain or any suffering that has happened to Mr. Lynch.”
But Lynch, who said he has found at least two other apparent molestation victims of Lindner, said he is not interested in apologies from the church.
“They have done nothing,” he said Friday. “Only when they had irrefutable evidence, when they had no other choice.
“Honestly, I could kill him with my bare hands, but I really want the church to be accountable. We are coming into an era where these guys are being prosecuted.”