Who is Reverend Kevin O'Brien? Biden's inauguration priest 'under investigation' for inappropriate behavior

Who is Reverend Kevin O'Brien? Biden's inauguration priest 'under investigation' for inappropriate behavior
Joe Biden at his inauguration ceremony and Reverend Kevin O'Brien who was at the mass ahead (Getty Images/YouTube: NBC Bay Area)

Joe Biden's inauguration priest, Kevin O'Brien, is allegedly "under investigation" in California. The reverend allegedly “exhibited behaviors in adult settings, consisting primarily of conversations, which may be inconsistent with established Jesuit protocols and boundaries,” according to a statement by John Sobrato, chairman of the Santa Clara University’s board of trustees. O'Brien, who has been the president of Santa Clara University since July 2019, is Biden's family friend.

After O'Brien was put on forced leave, an anti-abuse support group is now demanding transparency from the institution. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, has slammed the statement by the board of trustees as being too vague about O'Brien's "exhibited behaviors" and it wants to 'encourage others who may have experienced similar misconduct to come forward.'


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Who is Kevin O'Brien?

The Jesuit priest was in the news for presiding over an inaugural mass at the Cathedral of St Matthew the Apostle for President Joe Biden. The 54-year-old reverend had become the Catholic university's president two years ago and is known to often write about church reforms in a world of neverending sexual abuse scandals. He has known President Biden for some 15 years now, back from the time when O'Brien was serving at Georgetown University. He had also presided over Biden´s vice-presidential inauguration services. Biden is the second Catholic president of the United States.

O'Brien is currently being investigated by the USA West's Jesuit Provincial Office for his behavior. In the wake of the investigation, the board of trustees at Santa Clara University noted that Father O'Brien "has agreed to cooperate fully with the investigation and honor the process that he affirms annually as part of his ongoing Jesuit training." The board has also urged witnesses who have direct knowledge of O'Brien's alleged behavior to come forward to help the on-going investigation. 

Jesuit delegates arriving at the Vatican, Rome, for an audience with the Pope (Getty Images)


SNAP outrage

The statement from the board of trustees had prompted SNAP to demand transparency about the nature of O'Brien's transgressions. "While we appreciate that action has been taken by the Santa Clara board of trustees, we think that the vague statement released by the university does no favors to either the university community or the alleged victims," the SNAP statement said.

SNAP Executive Director Zach Hiner told The Mercury News 'I'm just as mystified as you as to what the allegations are." Tracey Primrose, spokeswoman for the Jesuits West Province, has since said in a statement to The Associated Press: "Jesuits are held to a professional code of conduct, and the Province investigates allegations that may violate or compromise established boundaries. As with any organization, the Jesuits West Province has confidentiality practices, which is why I cannot provide any additional information regarding this matter.

Sheena Kelly (L), Therese Albrecht (C), and Rick Springer hold signs during a press conference outside the Catholic archdiocesan chancery office March 25, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) held the press conference to urge Chicago�s Cardinal Francis George to reach out to Illinois kids who may have been abused by the late Rev. Lawrence Murphy who is accused of molesting up to 200 children while working at a renowned school for the deaf in Wisconsin. Pope Benedict XVI, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, has been accused of ignoring requests by Milwaukee's archbishop to have Rev. Murphy dismissed. (Getty Images)

Who are the Jesuits?

Jesuits are members of the Society of Jesus, a Roman Catholic order of priests and brothers. The Order was founded 1540 by St. Ignatius of Loyola, a soldier turned priest, according to the Order's official website. There are close to 17,000 Jesuits worldwide, including Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church. Jesuits are known for their educational, missionary, and charitable works around the world. The university is a private Jesuit institution located in Silicon Valley is ranked among the top 25 schools for underage teaching in America, with California Governors Gavin Newsom and Jerry Brown among its alumni.

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