Former University of Portland president named in Pennsylvania sexual abuse report

By Hannah Sievert and Claire Desmarais | August 24, 2018 6:23pm

Br. Raphael Wilson, as he was known as president of the University of Portland, was named in a grand jury report for admitting to sexually abusing a boy. Photo courtesy of University of Portland Clark Library.

A former University of Portland president, professor and Holy Cross brother is named in the recently released investigating grand jury report that details the sexual abuse by priests in Pennsylvania and their systematic coverup for over 70 years.

Known as Brother Raphael Wilson when he was president of the University from 1978 to 1981, Father Joseph B. Wilson, as he became known after his ordination as a priest in 1994, is listed on page 875 of the report

According to the document, when Wilson was a priest working as a hospital chaplain in Williamsport, PA. in 2002, he was removed from the ministry after admitting to sexually abusing a boy years earlier. The report does not state when or where the abuse occurred.

“Handwritten notes in the file reflected that in July, 2002, the (Scranton, PA.) Diocese became aware that while Wilson was a Religious Brother at Holy Cross, there were allegations made that he had sexually abused two boys,” the report says. “Wilson admitted to abusing one of the boys, and he was sent for evaluation and treatment.”

He reached a $250,000 confidential settlement with the victim, according to the report. It’s not clear if Wilson is still alive or, if he is, where he lives.

Late Friday afternoon, President Fr. Mark Poorman sent a campus-wide email revealing he learned last week that Wilson was among the hundreds of priests implicated in the report.

“The University of Portland has no information to suggest it was aware of any allegation of abuse at the time of his employment at UP from 1976 to 1981 and just learned of the allegations when the report was released,” Poorman said in the email. “The report does not state that Wilson committed abuse while at UP nor do we have any information that suggests he did so.”

Poorman’s email also called for holding abusers accountable.

“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,” the email said. “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.”

Br. Raphael Wilson, as he was known as president of the University of Portland, is photographed by the UP yearbook, The Log, while he was president. From the 1978-79 edition of The Log.  

According to the University archives, Wilson was the 16th president of UP and the first Holy Cross brother to be named president. He was also the first president appointed by a UP Board of Regents. Prior to that, Wilson was a UP biology professor from 1976 to 1978.

The Pennsylvania report, which is hundreds of pages long, contains allegations against more than 300 sexual predator priests. According to the report’s introduction, because the abuses were covered up, almost every instance of abuse listed in the report was too old to be prosecuted. The report emphasized that there was a pattern of covering up the sex abuse by the church hierarchy.

“The main thing was not to help children, but to avoid ‘scandal,’” the report says.

On Monday, the Vatican released a letter from Pope Francis that said in failing to act sooner, the Church has damaged many lives. 

“We showed no care for the little ones,” the letter from Pope Francis said. “We abandoned them.”