A student walks across the University of Portland campus Sept. 10. In the background is a display put up by the campus counseling service to encourage students to seek help when needed. A grand jury report in Pennsylvania revealed that a former university president, Brother Raphael Wilson, was accused of child sexual abuse. There are no reports of abuse by Wilson in Oregon, said U.P.’s current president, Holy Cross Father Mark Poorman. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)
A student walks across the University of Portland campus Sept. 10. In the background is a display put up by the campus counseling service to encourage students to seek help when needed. A grand jury report in Pennsylvania revealed that a former university president, Brother Raphael Wilson, was accused of child sexual abuse. There are no reports of abuse by Wilson in Oregon, said U.P.’s current president, Holy Cross Father Mark Poorman. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)

A past president of the University of Portland, Holy Cross Brother Raphael Wilson, is listed in the recently released grand jury report investigating the widespread sexual abuse of children within Pennsylvania dioceses and the systemic cover-up by senior church officials.

Wilson was accused of sexually abusing two boys and admitted to one of the charges. He reached a $250,000 confidential settlement with the victim, according to the report.

It is unclear when and where the abuse occurred. Wilson is still alive and 93 years old, according to Father Jeffrey Walsh, episcopal vicar for clergy in the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania, where Wilson was ordained a priest in the 1990s.

There is no information to suggest Wilson committed abuse while at U.P. or that the university was aware of allegations while he was employed at the school, according to Holy Cross Father Mark Poorman, current U.P. president. The university “just learned of the allegations when the report was released,” Father Poorman writes in a campuswide email sent Aug. 24.

Wilson was a faculty member in biology at U.P from 1976 to 1978, when he was named president. The Holy Cross brother was widely known for his work with David Vetter, dubbed the “bubble boy” by the media. Vetter had severe combined immunodeficiency disease and lived in a sterile containment system before his death in 1984 at age 12.

Wilson served as president at U.P. until he resigned in 1981 to resume his teaching and research career, according to his resignation letter.

The Beacon, U.P.’s student newspaper, posted an online story Aug. 24 about the discovery that Wilson was listed in the Pennsylvania grand jury report as one of the 300 predator priests.

According to page 875 of the report, Wilson approached Bishop James Timlin — head of the Diocese of Scranton from 1984 to 2003 — and requested to be accepted into the diocese. Elsewhere in the report, Bishop Timlin is said to have paid a family $75,000 to remain silent about a priest who raped a teenage girl and then forced her to have an abortion.

Wilson was accepted into the diocese, ordained at age 69 and henceforth was known as Father Joseph Wilson. The priest served at various parishes in Pennsylvania, including as assistant pastor and chaplain. He was a chaplain at a Catholic hospital in Williamsport when in 2002 the Scranton Diocese learned of the abuse allegations.

“Handwritten notes in the file reflect that in July 2002, the diocese became aware that while Wilson was a religious brother at Holy Cross, there were allegations made that he had sexually abused two boys,” states the report. “Wilson admitted to abusing one of the boys and he was sent for evaluation and treatment.”

He was removed from ministry in August 2002.

Wilson was a brother in the South-West Province of Holy Cross until he was ordained a priest. In 2011, the Eastern and the South-West provinces formed the new Moreau Province, located in Austin, Texas. The Sentinel asked for additional information about Wilson but Moreau Province representatives refused to comment.

When the Scranton Diocese learned of the abuse in 2002, the U.S. bishops had just established “The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” a comprehensive set of procedures for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy. It was revised several times, including this year.

The University of Portland adheres to and has expanded upon Title IX, a federal law requiring universities to follow specific procedures regarding sex discrimination and sexual violence. The university also is implementing a number of initiatives to further strengthen programming and support for students around sexual violations.

“We take proactive steps to protect community members, including the completion of background checks of new employees and searches of the national sex offender registry,” writes Father Poorman.

In the 1990s, the Supreme Court clarified that Title IX — established in the early 1970s —  requires schools to respond appropriately to reports of sexual harassment and violence against students.

The policies in place for student complaints during Wilson’s tenure at U.P. were prior to this clarification, and it is unclear what protocol existed while he was employed at the university. U.P. thus far has limited its response to Father Poorman’s letter and references to the school’s Title IX webpage.

Born in 1925 in Trenton, New Jersey, Wilson was the first Holy Cross brother named president of U.P. and the first chosen by a lay board.

“Brother Raphael is an outstanding scholar who also has had extensive administrative experience in several major colleges and universities,” Holy Cross Father Paul Waldschmidt, Wilson’s predecessor at U.P., said in a 1978 Catholic Sentinel story on the appointment.

Wilson’s work appeared in nearly 100 professional journals and other publications and he conducted lecture programs in countries around the globe.

In addition to working with Vetter, Wilson was involved in a similar program in Europe, where twins with intellectual disabilities were successfully treated in sterile isolation.

The Pennsylvania grand jury investigation, one of the broadest inquiries into church sex abuse in U.S. history, identified 1,000 children who were victims. The report stated there likely are thousands more.

In his letter Father Poorman writes that it’s “impossible to read the report and come away anything but horrified.”

“As a Catholic university, we condemn any act of violence or abuse against any person or child, and we call on those in leadership positions to act to prevent abuse and to hold abusers responsible,” writes Farther Poorman. “Our hearts are with every person whose life is affected by this horrific offense. The University of Portland community stands together to uphold our mission, values, and a collective commitment to fostering a world that is free from sexual assault, sexual harassment, or other forms of violence.”