The Jesuit priest who officiated then-President-elect Joe Biden’s inaugural Mass — and has been a family friend for almost 15 years — is under investigation for unspecified allegations and is now on leave from his position as president of Santa Clara University in California, according to the college.
The Rev. Kevin O’Brien 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 college’s board of trustees.
Sobrato’s statement did not specify the allegations against O’Brien but said the trustees “support those who came forward to share their accounts.”
He said that while O’Brien is on leave, the priest will be cooperating with the independent probe, with conclusions to be shared with the Santa Clara University Board of Trustees.
In January, O’Brien gave the service at Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle for Biden, who is the nation’s second Catholic president, as well as Vice President Kamala Harris before the inauguration ceremony at the US Capitol.
He also presided over services for Biden’s inaugurations as vice president.
The priest – who has been president of Santa Clara University since July 2019 — has known the Biden family for about 15 years, according to the university. When he met the family, he was serving at Georgetown University, another Jesuit college.
O’Brien didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.
Tracey Primrose, spokeswoman for the Jesuits West Province, which is overseeing the probe, told The Mercury News that “Jesuits are held to a professional code of conduct, and the Province investigates allegations that may violate or compromise established boundaries.”
The rep did not elaborate on the investigation.
“As with any organization, the Jesuits West Province has confidentiality practices, which is why I cannot provide any additional information regarding this matter,” Primrose said.
Santa Clara University alumni and board members expressed shock Thursday.“I’m not sure what’s going on — I’m really surprised,” said Norman Kline, a member of the university’s Board of Fellows, a fundraising group, and a former mayor of Saratoga, the Mercury News reported.
O’Brien, he told the paper, was well-liked and impressed the community when he embarked on a “listening tour” after his inauguration.“He’s terrific,” Kline added. “I think everybody liked him.”
The Canadian-born O’Brien became a US citizen in 1988 at age 22 and earned an undergraduate degree in government that year from Georgetown University, followed by a law degree from the University of Florida.
But after exploring a legal career, he accepted a job as a teacher at Cardinal Newman Catholic high school in West Palm Beach, Florida.
He entered the Jesuit order in 1996 and was ordained in 2006.
Located in Silicon Valley, Santa Clara University has an annual undergraduate enrollment of about 5,500 students.
Ranked as one of the top 25 schools for undergraduate teaching nationwide, the private university has a million-dollar endowment and counts California Govs. Gavin Newsom and Jerry Brown among its alumni.
With Post wires
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