VATICAN CITY — The head of the Jesuits in the United States defended the Vatican's new sex crimes prosecutor Tuesday, saying he had virtually no role in the order's handling of a notorious pedophile now serving a 25-year prison sentence.
The Rev. Timothy Kesicki, president of the U.S. Jesuit Conference, spoke to The Associated Press after The Boston Globe reported that the prosecutor, the Rev. Robert Geisinger, failed to report the abuser to police when he was the second highest-ranking official in the Jesuits' Chicago province in the 1990s.
Kesicki said Geisinger only worked for the Chicago province for about 14 weeks, from late December 1994 through March 1995, and never again. He was brought in as a temporary executive assistant to the acting provincial while the regular provincial was in Rome for a big Jesuit meeting. Geisinger had no governing authority and was tasked mainly with maintaining correspondence for his boss, said Kesicki.
After his brief stint in the province, Geisinger worked for the Chicago archdiocese and in 2001 moved to Rome to become the top canon lawyer for the Jesuits worldwide.
Court documents show that while in Rome, in 2002, Geisinger advised the Chicago Jesuits about disciplining the priest, the Rev. Donald McGuire. But the province only moved to dismiss McGuire after he was convicted in criminal court in 2006. Geisinger processed the paperwork and McGuire was defrocked within two months, the Vatican said.
"I hold him in the highest professional esteem," Kesicki said of Geisinger. "I believe he is one of the leading canonists in the church today, and most importantly, I believe he dedicated himself and uses the law for the protection of children and all vulnerable persons."
Kesicki, who was provincial in Chicago from 2009 until July, and oversaw its $19 million settlement to McGuire's victims, acknowledged the Jesuits "failed to do enough to respond" to McGuire's crimes.