Fr. Michael Barber, S.J., who was removed from the ministry in 1994, served as a chaplain at the Georgetown University Hospital from 1976 to 1978 in the department of pastoral care, where he assisted patients and staff in their religious life.
But in 1994, Barber, now 76, admitted to sexual abuse of a minor, according to a December 2018 disclosure by the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus.
Georgetown Hospital chaplains offer Mass, visit patients and their families, and counsel staff in decision-making, according to the hospital’s website.
University President John J. DeGioia first acknowledged Barber’s time at Georgetown Hospital in a December 2018 email, 24 years after Barber was removed from ministry, stripping him of the ability to say Mass. Georgetown first learned of the abuse in 2018 from the Maryland Province, according to a university spokesperson.
Once he was removed, Barber was relocated to Colombiere Jesuit Community in Baltimore, according to left-leaning media outlet ThinkProgress. The Maryland Province monitors Barber’s travel and use of technology in accordance with his safety plan, the Province said in its 2018 report.
A spokesperson for the Maryland Province was unable to comment on punishments for Jesuits who violate their safety plans, saying only that several broken safety plans may risk the province’s accreditation.
The Catholic Church and Jesuit order often use safety plans to deflect criticism without punishing abusers or supporting survivors, according to lawyer Mitchell Garabedian, who has represented survivors of clerical abuse in high-profile cases since 2002.
“History has taught us that the Catholic Church cannot self-police,” Garabedian said in a phone interview with The Hoya.
In his work as a hospital chaplain, Barber interacted with patients, their families, hospital staff and medical school students, but he spent little time with undergraduate students, according to Fr. Daniel Gatti, S.J., who served as director of the pastoral care department from 1975 until 1989. Gatti oversaw both Barber and Fr. Neil McLaughlin, S.J., who was removed from the ministry in 2007 and also faces credible accusations of sexual abuse of minors, according to the Maryland Province’s report.
“In relation to the academic side, they were not dealing with students,” Gatti said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “Their presence at Georgetown, from my recollection, was limited to their work with me in the hospital.”
The Maryland Province’s disclosure that Barber pleaded guilty to harassment did not clarify if that admission was made to a criminal court or through an internal church process. The church can protect senior officials by keeping abusive priests out of civilian legal systems, according to Benson.
“If law enforcement can’t press charges, then law enforcement also can’t get documents,” Benson said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “And if law enforcement can’t get documents, then they can’t get any evidence. They don’t have any evidence to prove their case or to show what the diocese knew of what he did.”
Gatti did not encounter any reports of inappropriate behavior by Barber or McLaughlin while serving as their supervisor.
“There is no indication to me or knowledge that I had that they had any improprieties or anything like that,” Gatti said.
While working at the university’s hospital, Barber lived two blocks off campus at Campion House, a small Jesuit community located across the street from Holy Trinity, a Catholic elementary school. Colombiere, where Barber has lived since 1994, is within a one-mile radius of four primary schools.
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