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Gonzaga and Fordham partner to investigate clergy sexual abuse

Gonzaga Fordham Clergy Abuse

Title: Gonzaga and Fordham partner to investigate clergy sexual abuse
Author:  Thea Skokan
Publisher: The Gonzaga Bulletin
Date: 07OCT2020

When the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report was released to the public in 2018, no one knew quite the effect it would have and continue to have over the next two years.The report detailed the findings of the widest examination of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church conducted by a government agency, including the names of 71 clergy members accused of engaging in sexual abuse of children.

“Everyone on the East Coast, but also nationally, was so overwhelmed by the detail of that report and the number of priests and bishops it was vociferously criticizing,” said Bradford Hinze, the Karl Rahner, S.J. professor of theology at Fordham University.

While this news spread across the country, a similar reaction was felt at Gonzaga University.

This was not the first time information regarding clergy sexual abuse had come to light. The first instance of potentially groundbreaking information was in 1985, in what Hinze said was a wave of momentary unrest but ultimately very little was actually addressed.

In 2002, the Boston Globe Spotlight team began what would become an extensive coverage of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, ultimately leading to the prosecution of five Roman Catholic priests. The investigations that followed not only caused a national uproar but revealed patterns of sexual abuse in dioceses across the United States.

Sixteen years later and the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report sparked something different, a systemic approach to the issue that hadn’t yet been extensively addressed.

“Following the 2018 Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, there was a renewal and increase in the work among scholars, at the Catholic universities and in professional societies dedicated to theology and religious studies,” said Michelle Wheatley, the vice president of Mission and Ministry at Gonzaga University, in an email.

Members of the theology department and the Curran Center for American Catholic Studies at Fordham University decided to convene after the release of the report and facilitate discussion on numerous issues around clergy abuse. These discussions happened frequently for the remainder of the year and ultimately officials at Fordham were approached by a private foundation to consider developing a project proposal designed to explore the Catholic clergy sexual abuse of minors.

Shortly after, Fordham was awarded a grant and an interdisciplinary initiative called “Taking Responsibility” was created. With an overall aim of invoking rigorous study to practical change, Taking Responsibility is exploring the relationship between the structures of Roman Catholic and Jesuit institutions of secondary and higher education.

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