Biden Inauguration Priest Under Investigation in California: University

March 19, 2021 Updated: March 19, 2021

A priest who presided over an inaugural Mass for President Joe Biden is under investigation, according to a statement from Santa Clara University this week.

The university confirmed that the school’s president, Father Kevin O’Brien, is being investigated for “exhibited behaviors in adult settings, consisting primarily of conversations, which may be inconsistent with established Jesuit protocols and boundaries.”

School officials did not elaborate on the nature of the investigation and provided few details about O’Brien’s “exhibited behaviors.”

“I write to you with an important update. I have been informed by the Provincial of the USA West Province that the Jesuit Provincial Office recently received accounts that Father O’Brien exhibited behaviors in adult settings, consisting primarily of conversations, which may be inconsistent with established Jesuit protocols and boundaries,” the school added. “An independent investigation into these accounts is being conducted on behalf of the USA West Province and the conclusions of the Province’s process will be shared with the Santa Clara University Board of Trustees.”

As a result, O’Brien “was placed on leave from his position as University President for the duration of the investigation by the USA West Province consistent with its protocols” and “has agreed to cooperate fully with the investigation and honor the process that he affirms annually as part of his ongoing Jesuit training.”

O’Brien presided over a Mass for Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, their families, and leaders of Congress during the president’s Jan. 20 inauguration. It was held at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C.

According to reports, O’Brien, described as a longtime Biden family friend, presided over services for Biden’s inaugurations when he was vice president. He previously served at Georgetown University, another Jesuit college.

Tracey Primrose, a spokesperson for the Jesuits West Province, told the San Jose Mercury News: “Jesuits are held to a professional code of conduct, and the Province investigates allegations that may violate or compromise established boundaries … As with any organization, the Jesuits West Province has confidentiality practices, which is why I cannot provide any additional information regarding this matter.”

The university says O’Brien joined the Society of Jesus—whose members are known as Jesuits—in 1996. He was ordained into the priesthood in 2006. He has been president of Santa Clara University since 2019.

Santa Clara University has an annual undergraduate enrollment of approximately 5,500 students. Democratic California Govs. Gavin Newsom and Jerry Brown are counted among its alumni.