Biden’s inauguration priest under investigation by university after unspecified allegations

Rev. Kevin O'Brien, president of Santa Clara University, has known President Biden for almost 15 years

The Rev. Kevin O'Brien, the president of Santa Clara University and the priest who delivered the Roman Catholic Mass for President Biden on the morning of his inauguration, is on leave from his job at the school after unspecified allegations against him. 

John Sobrato, the chair of the university's board of trustees, delivered the message in a letter to the university community this week. He said there have been allegations that O'Brien engaged in conversations contrary to the religious traditions of the school. 

"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," Sobrato said. 

In this Nov. 22, 2010, file photo, Vice President Joe Biden, left, and his wife, Jill Biden, center, stand with heads bowed as the Rev. Kevin O'Brien says the blessing during a Thanksgiving meal for Wounded Warriors in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

In this Nov. 22, 2010, file photo, Vice President Joe Biden, left, and his wife, Jill Biden, center, stand with heads bowed as the Rev. Kevin O'Brien says the blessing during a Thanksgiving meal for Wounded Warriors in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File) (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

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"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," he continued. "Father 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. He has agreed to cooperate fully with the investigation and honor the process that he affirms annually as part of his ongoing Jesuit training."

Sobrato said the university takes the allegations "seriously." He also said the university's trustees "support" people who shared "accounts" of O'Brien while adding the university believes in O'Brien's "right to a fair and impartial investigation."

O'Brien previously served on the boards of Fordham University, Seattle University, Marquette University and Boston College, according to his university biography. 

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He's known the Biden family for almost 15 years, according to Santa Clara University, from when O'Brien worked at Georgetown University. O'Brien also presided at the services for Biden's previous inaugurations, according to the university. 

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Santa Clara University board of trustees' statement said the university will not be giving updates as the investigation into O'Brien is ongoing but that it will eventually give a final update once it is complete.