Holy Cross Fr. Archibald McDowell worked at the University of Portland when allegations of abuse were made against him. (Sentinel archives)
Holy Cross Fr. Archibald McDowell worked at the University of Portland when allegations of abuse were made against him. (Sentinel archives)

Three Holy Cross priests who previously served at the University of Portland were credibly accused of sexually abusing minors, according to a list released June 12 by the U.S province of the Congregation of Holy Cross. One of the three, Father Archibald McDowell, appears to have abused a minor in Oregon while based at U.P., though specifics of the abuse are unclear.

The men were removed from ministry decades ago or are deceased.

In a letter to the school community, Holy Cross Father Mark Poorman, president of U.P., said there currently is no information “linking the alleged abuse to these individuals’ service at U.P.”

Fathers McDowell, James Trepanier and Gordon Wilcox are among 15 members of the Indiana-based Holy Cross province who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor. The most recent accusation was made in 1991, but others date back to the 1940s.

In a letter that accompanied the names, Holy Cross Father William Lies, provincial superior, apologizes to victim-survivors and their families and acknowledges people’s frustration, anger and sadness in the face of sexual abuse within the church.

“I share your desire for transparency and healing,” he said, explaining that’s why he released the list.

For Fathers McDowell and Trepanier, it took more than 10 years after accusations first were received for the men to be removed fully from ministry.

Father McDowell, who died in 1994, worked as a faculty member and chaplain at U.P. from 1949 to 1951 and from 1953 to 1957.

Multiple allegations against him were received from 1949 through the 1950s, and the Holy Cross list indicates the alleged abuse occurred in the 1950s in Indiana, Louisiana and Oregon.

While at U.P. Father McDowell frequently was mentioned in the Catholic Sentinel and was a supporter of the newspaper. He served as director of the Family Rosary Crusade movement, as president of the regional American Catholic Philosophical Association and was featured on a regular local television program. Though he was removed from ministry in 1962, the Sentinel ran a story celebrating his jubilee in 1973.

It is not clear if the university or the Archdiocese of Portland were informed of the allegations at the time they were reported.

U.P. staff said they are not aware of records showing such communication. Angela Knight, spokeswoman for the U.S. province of the congregation, said in an email that the order’s records are “incomplete, and we are uncertain as to the protocol at that time.”

The protocol for the province now is clear, added Knight. “When an allegation is brought to our attention, we immediately report it to law enforcement, the member is removed from ministry, and an independent investigation is conducted. The ministry or ministries where the accused has served are notified.”

Fathers Poorman and Lies encouraged anyone with information about misconduct by Holy Cross individuals to contact law enforcement as well as the U.S. province. Knight said the list will be updated if more victims come forward and allegations are investigated.

“The sexual abuse of a child is a horrific offense,” writes Father Poorman in his June 12 letter. “Survivors and their families deserve recognition of their pain and unwavering solidarity as they navigate a path towards healing.”

He also emphasized that safety is a priority at the university “and we do not tolerate abuse of any kind on our campus.”

The congregation’s recent list includes 13 priests, one brother and a seminarian. All have either died or been removed from ministry. One man is incarcerated. A couple men had allegations made against them following their deaths, as was the case with Father Wilcox. He served at U.P. from 1960 to ’62 and from 1978 to ’83, working as assistant director of international programs and resident hall director. The priest died in 1984; allegations were received in 2003 and 2012.

Father Trepanier was a U.P. faculty member and chaplain from 1963 to 1967. Last fall, his name was included in a report of priests credibly accused of sexually abusing minors in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana. Father Trepanier reportedly abused a minor in the 1980s and the abuse was reported in 1991. Father Trepanier was permanently removed from ministry in 2002 and now resides in a nursing facility with no access to young people, according to Holy Cross.

Last summer’s Pennsylvania grand jury report on numerous abuse claims included an additional member of Holy Cross who served at U.P. Brother Raphael Wilson, former U.P. president, admitted to sexually abusing a boy. Wilson is a former member of what is now the Moreau Province in Austin, Texas.

The recent Holy Cross list was shared following the release of several such lists by dioceses and religious orders. Last December, the Jesuits of the western United States made public the names of priests and brothers who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors since 1950.

Father Todd Molinari, vicar for clergy for the Archdiocese of Portland, said prior to the U.S. bishops’ 2002 “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” there were no official directives in place for reporting abuse by members of religious orders or any other church ministers. “It was all handled in-house on what was then considered a need-to-know basis,” he said.