A Theory on Why Fr. Kevin O'Brien Resigned

tl;dr: My theory is that the Jesuits fired KOB for being pro-choice, and to retaliate at Joe Biden for being pro-choice.

Zach Bellay published on

11 min, 2045 words

Note: This piece is highly speculative, and should be taken with a large grain of salt. The theory posed by this article very well may be inaccurate or completely incorrect. However, I believe that after examining multiple pieces of evidence and considering them in a larger context, the theory I propose is very reasonable. All opinions are my own.

The First Email

On March 18, 2021, Santa Clara University informed students, staff, and faculty that the sitting university president, Father Kevin O'Brien, would be put on leave pending investigation. Here is the email that was sent out.

Note: You can read the email on the SCU website link.

To summarize the email:

  • Father O'Brien is placed on leave
  • Jesuit office heard of "conversations" made in "adult settings" that "may be inconsistent with Jesuit protocols"
  • There is an investigation being conducted by a third party
  • Board of Trustees encourages people to come forward
  • Announcement of new interim staff

Unfortunately, the email was fairly light on details as far as why Fr. O'Brien was being reprimanded. We can expect more details once the investigation has concluded, however, let's look for clues in the first paragraph of this email:

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.

In other words, John M. Sobrato, the sender of this email and the chairman of the board of trustees received news from the Jesuit higher-ups that Fr. O'Brien was in hot water for having conversations that went against "established Jesuit protocols and boundaries." So, this mostly limits the alleged inappropriate behavior to something he said. The question is, what did Father O'Brien say? Fortunately or unfortunately for Father O'Brien, the email is incredibly vague. The email seems to imply that Father O'Brien said something offensive. However, by saying "primarily consisted of conversations" in an "adult setting" this leaves room for speculation about other misconduct ranging from sexual misconduct to inflicting bodily harm in this charged "adult setting."

The Second Email

Note: You can read the email on the SCU website link.

In this email, we learn some new information. To summarize:

  • Father O'Brien has resigned
  • The "adult settings" in question were dinners with graduate students
  • At the dinners in question, alcohol was being consumed
  • No bad behavior outside of the dinners were found, but still consisted "primarily of conversations"
  • Father O'Brien has enrolled in a 4-6 month outpatient program to address "related personal issues, including alcohol and stress counseling"
  • New interim administrators have been appointed

This email sheds more light on what exactly the alleged wrongdoing was. We now know the "adult setting" in question was a series of informal dinners with graduate students where alcohol was being consumed. While the "primarily of conversations" phrase is still included in this email, the dinner setting as well as the lack of elaboration from the conclusion of the investigation reasonably allows us to conclude that nothing else occurred at these dinners aside from conversations.

So the question remains. What did Father O'Brien say at these dinners? Perhaps he expressed views that were racist, sexist, xenophobic, classist, or homophobic? Why is what he said bad enough to lose his job as president of the university, but remain a Jesuit? Wouldn't espousal of such views merit being barred from the Jesuits?

I believe that at the dinners in question, Father O'Brien expressed a view seen as radical within the Jesuits and Catholic Church. I believe that at the dinners in question, Father O'Brien expressed that he was pro-choice and supported women's right to choose to have an abortion.

Supporting Evidence

The Jesuits Instigated the Investigation

One seemingly trivial detail to notice is that it is the Jesuits who are reporting the wrongdoing to the Board of Trustees. However, if we consider this with the theory that Father O'Brien was ousted for being pro-choice, the detail becomes substantially more important. It would make sense that the Board of Trustees would not initiate such an ousting on the grounds that Father O'Brien was pro-choice, because it is essentially irrelevant to his ability to perform his role as university president. However, because the Jesuits are by definition an organization focused on being good Catholics, supporting abortion as a Catholic makes you radical. As such, a radical leader without the support of their followers is likely to be removed quickly. I believe this is what happened with Father O'Brien.

Father O'Brien Says Mass for Joe Biden on Inauguration Day

Note: You can read the full article at this link.

On January 20th, 2021, Father O'Brien presided over mass for Joe Biden on his inauguration day. Presumably because Father O'Brien was a pastor at Holy Trinity Catholic Church for 8 years, where Joe Biden frequently attended mass. It is important to note that President Joe Biden is a practicing Catholic who is pro-choice.

American Bishops Vote to Deny Biden Communion

Note: You can read the full article at this link.

In June of 2021, the Roman Catholic Bishops of America voted to deny President Biden communion for his views of being pro-choice. The vote was 73 percent in favor and 24 percent opposed.

Connecting the Dots

So, here is my theory. Father Kevin O'Brien was fired from being president of Santa Clara University because he shared pro-choice views. Powerful high ranking Jesuits or other Catholic bishops ordered Father O'Brien's removal as a means of punishing and disgracing Joe Biden's inner circle. About a month later, the Bishops voted to deny Biden the Eucharist.

Pure Opinions

Personally, regardless of whether or not these theories are true, I found the vagueness of the emails to be very disappointing. Unfortunately, Santa Clara University's administration is much like many other large private organizations: seeking to minimize lawsuits and lacking transparency. While the Board of Trustees were very professional about Father O'Brien's removal, I still believe the wording and vague descriptions of the setting allowed for rampant speculation about potential misconduct, which acts as a form of slander against Father O'Brien.

To this day, a layperson reading the emails sent out by the Board of Trustees could reasonably infer that Father O'Brien was an alcoholic who said something racist at a dinner with graduate students. Worse yet, one could infer that Father O'Brien committed some sort of heinous sexual act, of which the Catholic church has a nasty history of covering up. However, if my theories are true, I believe Father O'Brien to be a tragic character.

He is disgraced and unable to speak up about what happened. And worse yet, because Santa Clara University wanted to avoid political backlash by being upfront that they were firing him for being pro-choice. Considering that the vast majority of students at Santa Clara University are liberal and pro-choice, as well as many of their graduates/donors, it makes financial and political sense to not upset this base. In effect, Santa Clara University made the cowardly and foolish decision to fire an effective, well-liked president and didn't even have the guts to tell everyone why.

However, this incident also brings up a lot of questions for me. For example, does this make Father O'Brien effectively a pawn in the ideological battle between the left and the right? Being played out on our campuses, in the shadows?

I don't believe Father O'Brien was an alcoholic. He may have consumed more alcohol than the average Jesuit (highly speculative). But I believe that he was advised to go to an outpatient therapy so that it would seem as though after he was done with the program that he was "fixed". I believe that the alcohol involved was merely a convenient scapegoat for dissenting political opinions.

In conclusion, I believe that Father O'Brien was unfairly represented in the emails and the subsequent press coverage of the emails. If this theory is true, then it goes to show that Father O'Brien is a man with great character because he was willing to sacrifice his own personal image for the sake of the institutions he belongs to.