By Christopher White and Franca Braatz
Just days ago, on the grounds of the famed University of Notre Dame a panel convened to tackle the difficult question of where the Church stands today with regard to the sexual abuse crisis.
Moderating the discussion, John Allen, editor of Crux, spoke on the current state of affairs in the Church and how to best direct the conversation away from the outrage and toward healing and recovery.
“What we have tonight is the Church coming together. We have lay people and clergy. We have a victim of clerical sexual abuse. We have one of the bishops who was charged with engineering the recovery from that abuse. This is essentially a microcosm of the Church coming together to try to figure out, ‘Where are we, and where do we go from here,” Allen said.
Part of the distinguished panel of survivors and reformers was Kathleen McChesney, a former FBI executive who’s been working with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops since the crisis came to light in 2002.
“The issue of sexual abuse isn’t just clergy sexual abuse. It’s abuse that occurs in all sorts of Catholic ministries, so it’s really critically important that we keep our eye on that,” McChesney said.
Notre Dame’s president, Father John Jenkins, helped organize the event because it is important that the university be part of the recovery efforts.
“What I really hope from this discussion is the people we have who themselves are so knowledgeable in various aspects of this situation can reflect on the reality, so they can understand where we are now and what we need to do in the future to serve the Church and to rebuild the Church,” Fr. Jenkins said.
The University of Notre Dame’s commitment goes beyond academia with the release of a first-of-its-kind survey of Catholic seminaries on the issue of sexual harassment, and $1 million dollars in funding to promote research projects related to the crisis.
“I think what a university can offer is a kinda careful look at the facts,” Fr. Jenkins said. “The information to use its capacity for research, for study… expertise in the disciplines to get at the dimensions… we know there are many dimensions to this,” he added.
This comes as a defining moment under the golden dome as the healing process continues with candid dialogue and heightened awareness.