The past four decades have witnessed horrifying revelations concerning sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church. The long-lasting harm and suffering inflicted on vulnerable victim-survivors, the evil and scandal perpetrated by abusers, and the sorry record of silence, denial, or cover-up on the parts of church leaders have precipitated a crisis of faith, trust, and moral and spiritual credibility.
Like other religious orders around the world, the Society of Jesus in the United States has been called to account for its own part in this scandalous history. Since December 2018, all of the U.S. Jesuit provinces have publicly disclosed the names of members and former members credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors, and many Jesuit high schools, colleges, and universities have responded by undertaking self-reflection and self-criticism concerning their own histories.
Its overall aim during the period from June 2020-December 2022 was to fund research both at Fordham and at other Jesuit institutions that would explore the relationship between the structures of the Roman Catholic Church (including though not limited to the structures of Jesuit institutions) and the phenomena of clergy sexual abuse and its systematic concealment. We were interested in learning more about the structural, cultural, and other features of Catholic institutions that, in the past, facilitated both abuse and concealment. We wished to gain insight that would enable us to recommend methods, including changes in culture and policy, that Jesuit educational institutions may use to repair the harms caused by sexual abuse and its concealment, as well as to move into the future as leaders in ensuring the protection and well-being of children and vulnerable adults.
Our key goals for the grant included the following:
- Support for rigorous, focused investigations into aspects of clerical sexual abuse as they have manifested at Jesuit institutions;
- Production of resources aimed at assisting Jesuit administrators, faculty, staff, students, and others to examine the causes, history, and consequences of sexual abuse, as well as ethical considerations about our responsibility in the present day;
- Facilitation of ongoing conversation for researchers at US Jesuit institutions, including through regular online and offline meetings for consultation and study and a major conference in Spring 2022;
- Development of a network of Jesuit educational institutions through which this work can continue.