Priest who officiated at Biden inauguration Mass resigns amid misconduct probe

An investigation of Father Kevin O’Brien, the Jesuit priest who officiated at President Joe Biden’s inaugural Mass, has now led to the cleric’s resignation, after the probe revealed his participation in inappropriate, alcohol-fueled gatherings with graduate students at Santa Clara University, where he served as president, according to the Washington Examiner.

The controversy surrounding O’Brien involves an independent investigation initiated earlier this year by the USA West Province into the priest’s conduct during his tenures as university president. At the time the probe was launched, O’Brien was placed on leave.

The Examiner now reports that the completed inquiry revealed that “Father O’Brien engaged in behaviors, consisting primarily of conversations, during a series of informal dinners with Jesuit graduate students that were inconsistent with established Jesuit protocols and boundaries,” and that alcohol was involved during the conduct at issue.

Though he was given the opportunity to remain on extended leave and undergo alcohol and stress management therapy, according to the San Jose Mercury News, O’Brien gave notice to the college’s Board of Trustees that he would be resigning his post, effective May 9, a decision that was accepted the following day. The priest had served as president of the school since July of 2019, as the Examiner also noted.

An advocacy group for past victims of sexual conduct committed within the Catholic Church has asked the Jesuits to expand the probe of O’Brien to include other places he has been previously employed, including Georgetown University. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) issued a statement saying, according to the Associated Press:

SNAP is alarmed with the limited amount of information that has been provided about the case and wants to see the probe expanded.

Many on the Santa Clara University campus were equally perplexed by the departure and lamented the lack of details provided by school administration on what prompted the probe and O’Brien’s departure, according to the Mercury News.

Freshman Norelisa Nascimento said that while sympathizes with the priest’s need for discretion and privacy, “we’re still wondering, what could he have said,” and she further asked, “what could he have done to have caused this scandal?”

According to a January press release from the university announcing O’Brien’s selection as the celebrant for the inaugural Mass, the priest has enjoyed a personal friendship with members of the Biden family for 15 years, going back to his tenure at Georgetown.

The Roman Catholic Mass was held at The Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle on Jan. 20 and included Biden, then-Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, their families, congressional leaders, and other invited guests.