The University of Scranton Takes Action

US_Seal_3DA letter by was released by the President of the University of Scranton, Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., to the University on August 20, 2018, concerning the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report.  It outlines proactive steps being implemented at the  “The U” as a result of the findings presented by the Grand Jury.  Some of the actions include the renaming of buildings named after bishops in Scranton implicated in the report as covering up abuses and rescinding honorary degrees conferred on those bishops.  The text of the letter is as follows:

Dear Members of the University Community,

 The recent release of more than 1,300 pages of grand jury proceedings detailing sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Pennsylvania and failures by Church leaders in responding to these situations is justifiably generating international attention and outrage. Since the report’s release last week, the University has considered how best to respond to the deeply disturbing report and to past honors and recognition it has bestowed upon individuals named in it.

Earlier today, I consulted with a group of administrators, faculty, alumni and student leaders to recommend a course of action to the Board of Trustees. This afternoon, the Board met in special session and unanimously approved our recommendations.

With sympathy for and in solidarity with victims of sexual abuse in the Diocese of Scranton, The University of Scranton will rescind honorary degrees and rename campus buildings recognizing Bishops Jerome D. Hannan, J. Carroll McCormick, and James C. Timlin. As documented in the report, these Bishops covered up the crimes and misdeeds of men who were under their jurisdiction and placed children in harm’s way.

Buildings previously named for these three Bishops will be renamed as follows:

McCormick Hall will be renamed MacKillop Hall in honor of Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop, an Australian nun who founded the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart and who publicly exposed the sexual abuse of children by a priest. In her life, she faced persecution and excommunication, during which she was assisted by the Jesuits until later being absolved. Pope Benedict XVI named Sr. Mary Australia’s first saint in 2010.

The name on Timlin House will be removed and Mulberry Plaza, the complex in which the building is located, will be renamed Romero Plaza in honor of the late Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, who will be canonized by Pope Francis on October 14. Murdered in 1980 while saying mass in San Salvador, Archbishop Romero remains an inspiration to millions, including many on the University’s campus who have made the moving pilgrimage to El Salvador.

Hannan Hall will be renamed Giblin-Kelly Hall in honor of the late Brendan J. Giblin ’06 and William H. Kelly Jr. ’93.  Brendan was a graduating senior at Scranton and o-captain of the swim team when he was tragically killed while on Spring Break in Panama City.  Bill worked for Bloomberg, LP in Princeton, N.J. and their affiliate, Bloomberg Tradebook LLC, in New York City. On September 11, 2001, Bill attended a conference at Windows on the World at the World Trade Center, Tower One, and was killed in the attack that destroyed those buildings. Since Bill and Brendan died, their family and friends have devotedly kept their memory alive, transforming tragedy into good in support of future students at Scranton.

In choosing to honor St. MacKillop, Archbishop Romero, Brendan and Bill, we hold up the example of their lives as a reminder always to be a voice against abuse and violence no matter the cost, to champion the poor and oppressed, and to treasure the bonds of friendship and community that are at the heart of The University of Scranton.

These actions are important, but the gravity of the information we now know demands even more of us. As a Catholic and Jesuit university founded by the Diocese of Scranton, The University of Scranton will strive together with the people of the Diocese and Catholics everywhere to address the difficult but necessary questions that arise from the grand jury report. As a university community, we look forward to working with the people of the Diocese to assist in facilitating discussions and reflection in the long but hopeful process to rebuild trust and find peace. In support of this initiative, the University is devoting resources to advance the programs and projects that emerge from our collaboration.

Additionally, I recognize that stories from the past two weeks can trigger painful memories for members of our campus community who themselves are living with the lifelong scars of sexual abuse. Please be assured that the staff of the Counseling Center and Campus Ministries are available to help students and that the University’s employee assistance program is always available for faculty and staff.

On this journey, I ask that you pray for the healing of all victims of sexual abuse and their families and that you pray also for the people of the Diocese of Scranton and the Universal Church.

Sincerely,

Scott R. Pilarz, S.J.

President

For the first time since a lengthy confession with Edward Gannon, S.J. in his library office at the University of Scranton in 1981, I feel a little bit of the weight being taken off of me.

This is a significant start to an open dialogue on the depths of the problem of covering up sexual crimes committed against children and a way forward to protect children and vulnerable adults in the future.

As a member of both the University of Scranton and the Survivor community, I am proud of my university for taking these initial decisive steps.

Michael Baumann, ’82

 

 

 

Australian Nun to be Patron Saint of Sexually Abused Children

I did a post in April 2009 on determining who an appropriate patron saint for the victims of pedophile priests.  The post entitled “Patron Saint Nomination for Victims of Sexual Abuse by Priests “ was meant to be a tongue in cheek stab at the ridiculousness of the Vatican and their inability to actually deal with the continuing child sexual abuse crisis within the church.

Just this week I was reading an article on Key Ebeling’s City of Angels blog about a canonization going on in Australia this weekend ( October 17, 2010)

Little did I know that the boys in Rome were, indeed, working on coming up with a patron saint for victims.  An appropriate use of their time considering the inability of the Catholic hierarchy to actually deal with the real problem of real priests, nuns and Catholic lay leaders who have committed sexual crimes against the most vulnerable of god’s children.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce Blessed Mary MacKillop.  An Australian nun of Scottish descent who founded an order of Catholic nuns in Australia.  She and a number of other nuns were excommunicated by a Catholic Bishop with a really bad attitude after one of the nuns (not Mary herself) uncovered and reported a pedophile priest.  The exposure embarrassed the diocese.  (Hmmmm, why does this story sound familiar?) On his deathbed, the bishop vacated the excommunication.

Sister Mary went on to live a holy life of service.  All of which is very well and good.

Here is my problem with all of this.  If the boys in the Vatican had time to do all this work on Sister Mary and commend her and her merry band of sisters for exposing pedophile priest over 100 years ago, why haven’t they taken a moment to deal with the ongoing crisis of sexual crime in the Catholic church?  Why are they not investigating credible allegations of abuse and taking decisive action to identify and remove from ministry the predators in the church?  Why are they not turning these monsters over to civil authority for prosecution? Why are they not assisting survivors and their families deal with the damage caused by these monsters?  Why is this still a problem hundreds of years after the Vatican identified the problems of priests who get a thrill from little boys or little girls?

The church solution is to give the survivor community a patron saint to whom we may pray to intercede for us with god.  SWEET!  Pope Benedict and the boys are making a dead Australian nun into god’s answering machine for victims of sexual abuse by priests and other Catholic religious.  Considering the fact that our voices are falling on deaf ears with local clergy, bishops, cardinals and “Benny 16 himself”, it seems the Sister Mary (god rest her soul) is the best we have.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am sure Blessed Mary MacKillop was a pious, kind and virtuous woman.  I have no doubt that she is deserving of being made into a saint by the church.  My problem here is that we are here 100 plus years after this woman’s passing and the sexual crime crisis continues unabated.  If the best the Vatican can do is give us a patron saint to pray to,  it is clear that after all the documented cases of crime, cover-up, obstruction and re-victimization of survivors the Vatican remains blissfully ignorant of the magnitude of the crisis.

How about we find a deceased victim of clergy sexual abuse and beatify him or her? A reader made a comment to that effect on my April 2009 blog post on naming a patron saint.   We can attribute the successful prosecution of a pedophile priest or the release of diocesan documents as miracles because the hierarchy of the Catholic church continue to deny, obstruct, attack and abuse.   Better yet, we should all pray for excommunication, it seems to be the path to success.

Note to the Vatican: You have alienated so many survivors, many of whom no longer pray. The hotline to Sister Mary in heaven is probably not going to get the prayer volume you may desire.  How about giving us a live warm body to talk to who can possibly get something done here on this planet?

Postscript:  I am off on a two week long adventure for work.  I will check in when I can.