The provincial cometh

Was it a media blitz in the last few days, the coverage of the Wheeling Jesuit University president-firing and the aftermath? 

Not quite, but the WJU board and its acting president did come out of hiding, smoked out by mass-medium coverage of slam-bang accusations by a high-profile West Virginian whom the mediums all know about.  (He’s in the clips.)

The bishop didn’t do it, the acting president and board spokeswoman trumpeted, speaking for themselves and for the Jesuit provincial superior, Rev. James M. Shea, SJ, of Towson, MD.

MD Prov Shea

Indeed, Fr. Shea has approved the behavior of his three fellow Jesuits — the local superior, the president of another Jesuit university, and the operator of a Pennsylvania retreat house, each a “trustee” of WJU — pretty much since they gave a fourth Jesuit, also a trustee, the boot in absentia as WJU president while apparently keeping a fifth out of the loop lest he veto the ouster.

To be kept in mind is the first rule of home-office-based executives, not to second-guess operators in the field.  They are home-office appointees, for one thing, and are on the scene, for another, while executives are not.  To top it off, the executive in this case has neither interest in nor (probably) stomach for an independent investigation.

If there’s something rotten in the state of West Virginia, he relies on local authorities to tell him.  It takes more than indignation expressed and accusations made by local non-Jesuits to get him, the provincial, off a dime.

Besides, in this case he is a lifelong chaplain and pastor, most recently pastor of the Jesuits’ Georgetown (DC) parish.  He’s a pastor, with all the one-on-one impulses and expertise that implies — with a doctorate in pastoral care from Southern Methodist, no less.  It’s his specialty.

He ran a parish in a sophisticated neighborhood — no small thing — but university administration and politics he probably knows from rec-room chatter and the like, to judge by his resume.

It should never have been in doubt, therefore, that he would endorse the WJU ouster, as sloppily as it was conducted, if not deceitfully.  On the other hand, when anguished cries from West Virginia arrived by U.S. mail, it might have been hoped, if not expected, that he would revert to a tried and true pastoral approach and write back; but he did not.

It’s a jungle out here, true.  SNAP and their lawyers wait to haul him before a civil court.  Money is at stake.  Oregon Province has declared bankruptcy.  In Seattle the Jesuit university president, a former provincial, is being sued for keeping under his hat the abuse of hundreds of Eskimos by dozens of Jesuits. 

The Maryland Provincial can be like the Huron Indians of 400 years ago who took it on the chin for Jesus’ sake and went out of business, destroyed by the un-Jesus-like Iroquois, as the movie “Black Robe” would have it.  Or he can be very, very careful, giving nothing his enemies might use against him.

He can sit on letters and say nothing, not even when he has something to say, leaving it to non-Jesuit officialdom to pass on his approval of the mysterious WJU firing.  He himself stays out of it — or did until today, when he presided at the St. Joseph Pignatelli liturgy on campus.  Perhaps more later about that pregnant appearance . . .

Later: If pregnant, not yet delivered, is the word from Wheeling.  Shea did nothing of note in this context at the Pignatelli mass but is staying in Wheeling for a few days.  It’s his annual “visitation” of the Jesuit community there, when he has one-on-one conferences with each, after which he will have the low-down.  Icing on the cake, one may assume: how could he in the past have been so sure of the wisdom of what transpired if he didn’t have it?

Indeed, as an astute observer noted to Blithe Spirit, the removal of Giulietti had to be a Jesuit thing, for that matter a provincial’s decision.  Civil legality has no room for three Jesuits in a conference call removing a university president.  It was the religious superior that did it.  Giulietti was remanded back to his own province, New England, case closed.  He served in Maryland (province) at sufferance of the Maryland provincial.  Sufferance withdrawn, Giulietti withdrew.

So it’s a fool’s errand to ask Shea to save the day, no matter who you are, including Giulietti’s sole trustee-supporter, Rev. Ed Glynn SJ, a former Maryland provincial and successively president of three Jesuit universities.  This is as much religious-community politics as university politics.

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  • DJ McCann  On 11/19/2009 at 9:57 AM

    I’ve been following this blog on the WJU situation with interest. One point: the 9/15/09 posting (“The Glynn Account”), indicates the university’s legal counsel, whom Fr. Ed Glynn criticized in his email correspondence, was Tom Scheye. That’s incorrect, I think. Tom Scheye is a VP and Provost of Loyola College (Jesuit) in Baltimore, MD.

    The Glynn emails suggest that Scheye was involved in some capacity in the short-circuited performance evaluation of Fr. Giulietti. I think the unnamed “university’s lawyer” in Glynn’s emails was someone else. Can you or your sources enlighten us? [Yes, see comment below.]

    The more this drama unfolds, the more I lean towards the theory that the president’s dismissal resulted from discovery of some personal failing which the Jesuit “inner circle” decided was too embarrassing or risk-laden to be disclosed to anyone but the bare minimum of 3 Jesuit trustees needed to vote removal; that is, even the fourth SJ trustee, and certainly most of the lay members of the WJU board of directors, have been kept in the dark about the true reason.

    Under this scenario the “inner circle” tried to use the normal evaluation process and the university board of directors as cover, but it wasn’t honest and it disastrously back-fired. Some of the non-Jesuit directors apparently played along with the charade and did the bidding of the inner circle, but some others said “this doesn’t make any sense” and refused to play along. The seeds of distrust were sown, and now all members of the WJU community – students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, the bishop, the city, — are reaping the bitter consequences.

    If this is correct, it means, of course, that the Society of Jesus was, and is, willing to cut WJU loose and watch it sink in order to protect itself and its secrets. Sad day for WJU.

    True loyalty to WJU requires the disinfectant of sunlight. Will the acting President and remaining directors find the courage to demand it?

    DJ McCann, J.D.


    • Jim Bowman  On 11/20/2009 at 10:48 AM

      Thanks for the Tom Scheye alert. I have fixed the posting. He is not the lawyer mentioned in the Glynn emails, whom Glynn did not name, but a respected former teacher and administrator (at Loyola College, Baltimore), as McCann says, and for upwards of 15 years has worked as a consultant to Jesuit universities, including John Carroll U. in Cleveland, when Fr. Glynn was president! My apologies to Tom Scheye — not for saying he’s a lawyer (some of my best friends . . . ) but for identifying him as the one excoriated by Fr. Glynn.

      As to speculations about Fr. Giulietti, McCann has dealt with that in another comment. A few additions:

      * If the Jesuits wanted him gone for mis- or mal-feasance, it was news to one of them, Fr. Glynn.

      * If they sought to clean house while keeping dirt under rug, why the reappointment to high-profile position of Fr. Gleeson, accused of hitting on a scholastic in an earlier high-profile assignment?

      * Fr. Guilietti was apparently not in charge of the NASA program when NASA was double-billed. The acting president ran the program, as one open-letter writer has said?

      I admit that my first reaction back in August, when I knew very little of WJU, was to think Fr. Giulietti had abused someone, such is the climate these days. As soon as I heard of the NASA business, I got suspicious about that (and blogged on the point); the timing of report and ouster helped foster such a suspicion. Now the best I can conclude is that it’s a very mysterious situation, with the answers being up to the board, trustees, and assorted Jesuits, none of whom are looking very good at the moment.


  • Judith Geary  On 11/19/2009 at 2:07 PM

    Attorney McCann is correct that WJU requires the disinfectant of sunlight. However, he falls into the dangerous mire of innuendo and character assassination which has plagued Fr. Gulietti and WJU for more than a year as he speculates about a Jesuit “inner circle” and embarrassing or risk-laden behavior. Such speculation simply brings additional harm to Father and to WJU. This is, of course, a direct result of the failure of the Maryland Province to handle this matter with integrity and in a timely manner.

    Fr. Giulietti, his attorney, the law firm which represents the university, Jesuits and lay people familiar with this unfortunate debacle have all clearly stated that Fr. Giulietti is guilty of nothing untoward. The evaluation process undertaken by Mr. Tom Scheye was abandoned by the Board of Directors before any constituents but themselves had an opportunity to participate. Had that evaluation been completed, the consensus among members of the WJU community is that it would have been positive. That result would have precluded any action to remove Fr. Giulietti by the Board. Apparently, in the absence of any other evidence, one assumes that was not an eventuality they were willing to allow.

    People should be extremely careful in matters such as these. A good man’s reputation has been maligned, a vibrant University has been swept into turmoil. Both deserve much, much better. Those responsible for the governance of Wheeling Jesuit have a grave responsibility to take every step necessary to publicly and honestly restore Fr. Giulietti’s reputation and to return stability to the WJU community.

    Hoping that this matter will “go away” is foolishness. Mr. McCann’s comment today, more than three months after the event, is a clear indication of that. Many WJU aumni have also wondered if the Society of Jesus is ready and willing to cut the university loose. We have been assured that is not the case. Unfortunately, that response no longer reassures us. It is long past time for the Society of Jesus to bring this matter to a just and certain end.

    There is deep concern among WJU alumni – for the continuation of the excellent educational opportunity we had, for our students, the outstanding faculty and administrators, for the staff and all employees of WJU and, of course, for Fr. Giulietti, whose resilience and grace continue to inspire us. We are the largest and by far the most vocal of the WJU constituencies. We know without a doubt that WJU has been a remarkably fine university since 1954. We think it is not too much to ask that today’s Jesuits of the Maryland Province remember and emulate the university’s founding Jesuits whose courage and determination to succeed built that fine university. Until they do, we will remain, reminding them of what has been and what we hope WJU will be in the future.


    • DJ McCann  On 11/19/2009 at 3:57 PM

      Judy — Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful reply. I don’t know the former president of WJU and certainly make no unsupported charges against him. I have no knowledge of any specific misfeasance by anyone. My original comment was speculative in nature and was intended to describe a theory – a set of hypothetical circumstances — that seemed to make some rational sense in light of the known facts. If that theory is false, then my alternative interpretatino alas, seems even worse and more improbable. The alternative (also hypothetical, of course) implies that a signifcant number of members on the WJU board of directors acted arbitrarily, capriciously, and unprofessionally; disregarded fairness and due process; made a mockery of university procedures; acted with disrespect toward dissenting members of the board; and acted with notable disrespect for students, faculty, and many other members of the larger WJU community whose opinions about university leadership are vitally important. It also implies that three of the Jesuit trustees acted precipitously and irresponsibly, in disregard of the university’s bylaws; were shockingly disrespectful to two of their Jesuit brethren who were also members of the board of Trustees ( who were not given even the modicum courtesy of being notified of the Trustees’ secret meeting. It also implies that neither the directors nor the trustes obtained sound legal advice, or if they did receive sound advice, chose to ignore it. It also implies that all of the above bodies are continuing on an unremorseful course of pretending that nothing inappropriate was done, and that such pretense is now being supported and reinforced by the Maryland Jesuit provincial and the president of the association of Jesuit colleges, who was himself once the president of WJU. We now have last year’s recipient of WJU’s honorary doctorate withdrawing a gift of $650,000 and accusing the university of perversely unethical onduct. I can scarecely conceive how the damage to WJU could be worse. The only worse things I can think of would be if federal auditors accused WJU of mischarging the government for millions of dollars or seeing the University controller get arrested for embezzlement. Oh, wait … never mind.


  • Steve Milavec  On 11/19/2009 at 7:56 PM

    I agree with Judith that it is absolutely wrong and irresponsible to assume some defect with Fr. Julio because of the cowardly actions of the board. There has been no accusation or description of any problem with Julio’s character or behavior.

    Wheeling Jesuit is in big trouble because of it’s actions. Alumni are more upset than they realize because they are out of touch. Steve Haid’s actions are courageous and should encourage other alumni to withhold donations until this current board is sent packing. No amount of further coverup or insensitive comments like Davitt MacAteer’s assertion that Steve’s withdrawal of a phenomenonly generous gift would not hurt the school one bit. He is wrong and also needs to be sent packing.


  • Rex B  On 11/20/2009 at 9:14 AM

    I would like to know who the lawyer was who was representing the university when Giuletti got fired. Why did Glynn say that the president couldn’t trust him? Also, what has been going on with the NASA problem and the problem with the controller? It just seems like no one is minding the store up there.

    Rex B. (’68)


  • Larry Catraro  On 11/22/2009 at 1:38 PM

    I live inside the DC Belt Way. I’m a good friend of two couples whose children attend Wheeling Jesuit. I’ve been curious to know of the visit of the Provincial Superior of the Province of Maryland, Fr. Shea, to Wheeling earlier this week. I hear that Fr. Provincial Shea did not say anything about the crisis at Wheeling Jesuit nor of the ridiculous innuendos imposed on Fr. Giulietti.

    Fr. Shea’s visit came after Fr. Charles Currie and some interim leaders at Wheeling said after Mass in a Washington alumni get together which I quietly attended with no fanfare. Fr. Currie, to his credit, stated publicly that Fr. Giulietti was not involved in anything improper, unethical or immoral while at Wheeling Jesuit! Did not Fr. Shea know of Fr. Currie’s public comments? And is not Fr. Currie’s statement not contrary to what others, notably board member Miss Friday and board chair Mr. Fisher, have been saying for months: that they are not free to disclose what information they know about Fr. Julio. What a ludicrous statement in view of the public comments by Fr. Currie exonerating Fr. Giulietti from any wrong doing. Such a negative statement is aimed at ruining a good man’s reputation by innuendo. Is such behavior warranted because board members do not know how else to cover up their personal hatred for a Jesuit who is of superior intellect and moral character?

    Wheeling students are not stupid. Do not Mr. Fisher and Miss Friday realize that their behavior and statements, and those of other board of directors, trustees and those now “leading” Wheeling Jesuit are speaking with forked tongs? Were not Mr. Fisher and Miss Friday told of what Fr. Currie said to friends of Wheeling in Washington? Certainly my friends’ children are not unaware and that knowledge will result in changes. Is Wheeling Jesuit prepared for a significant number of students planning to transfer to other colleges in January followed by an even greater number in June? Will parents want to send their children to a college where trashing the reputation of good people is seen as standard behavior of board members?

    Larry Catraro


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