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Priest who gave President Biden’s inaugural Mass resigns from Santa Clara University after investigation


The Jesuit priest who oversaw President Biden’s inaugural Mass resigned from his post as president of Santa Clara University this week after an internal investigation found he engaged in behaviors that conflicted with the Jesuit order’s “protocols and boundaries,” according to a statement issued by the school Wednesday.

The Rev. Kevin O’Brien, who had been on leave since mid-March, offered his resignation Sunday, according to a letter issued by John Sobrato, president of the Santa Clara, Calif., school’s Board of Trustees.

O’Brien, who formerly served at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and has known the Bidens since the mid-2000s, had been president at Santa Clara since July 2019.


An investigation by the Jesuits West Province, which oversees Jesuit priests in eight states including California, found O’Brien had “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.”

Alcohol was involved in the incidents, according to Sobrato’s letter to university faculty and staff, though it was unclear how. The investigation did not uncover any improper behavior outside of the dinners, the letter said.

O’Brien had been directed to enroll in a four- to six-month outpatient program to address personal issues related to alcohol and stress, according to Sobrato’s letter.

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It was unclear how O’Brien’s conduct violated the Jesuit order’s rules, when the dinners took place or how many students were present. A university spokeswoman referred questions to the West Province, which did not immediately reply to an e-mail from The Times.

“The Board of Trustees takes this situation very seriously and fully supports those who came forward to provide their accounts,” Sobrato wrote.

Lisa Kloppenberg, who had served as dean of Santa Clara’s law school, will be the university’s acting president until a permanent replacement is found.

O’Brien has been a priest since 2006. He gave the service for Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, their families and select elected officials in January at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, one of the most prominent Catholic churches in Washington, before the inauguration ceremony at the Capitol. Biden is the nation’s only second Catholic president.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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