IN--Victims urge Notre Dame to act on predator
For immediate release: Friday, June 26
Statement by Barbra Graber, leader of SNAP Mennonite Chapter, Mennonite@SNAPnetwork.org, 540-214-8874
Officials at Notre Dame are refusing to admit widely-documented and repeated sexual misconduct by a high profile former professor who worked on campus for two decades. We call on university staff to investigate his abuse and school cover ups and reach out to his victims.
In two new stories, The National Catholic Reporter says
-- John Howard Yoder had “a long history of predatory behavior toward women, especially young female students."
--“Notre Dame officials became aware of his previous sexual misconduct in the early 1980s, years before alleged victims went public in 1992,” and
--“What remains unanswered is who knew what at Notre Dame at the time of (Yoder’s) hiring, whether officials there simply ignored his past and what officials on the campus subsequently did as reports of his abusive behavior began to surface.”
--“Yoder’s presence at Notre Dame gave a significant boost to the school's theology department,” bringing with him “international acclaim.”
Earlier this year, officials at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary -- where Yoder taught for 24 years – publicly apologized to Yoder’s victims for the first time. Notre Dame must do this and more. They must launch an independent investigation into both misdeeds by Yoder and cover ups by school staff.
And even sooner, we urge the school’s hierarchy to aggressively seek out current or former students or staff who may have been hurt by Yoder and offer them help.
Catholic bishops and officials in the US have pledged, time and time again, to be “open and transparent” in abuse cases. Notre Dame staff must honor these promises in the Yoder case.
We are grateful that university officials have taken Yoder’s name off a lecture series. But much more remains to be done if the truth is to be exposed and the victims are to be healed and cover ups are to be deterred.
We are even more grateful to the brave women – victims, witnesses, whistleblowers and advocates – who have helped expose the horrific sexual misdeeds by Yoder and the cover ups and poor responses by Yoder’s colleagues and supervisors. Because of their courage, churches are safer. We hope the NCR reporting will bring them sorely-needed, long-overdue and well-deserved healing.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Why write the story of the allegations against John Howard Yoder?
Soli Salgado | Jun. 25, 2015 NCR Today
Sexual abuse allegations against theologian John Howard Yoder are decades old. The officials who chose to either ignore his past or bury it are mostly dead. The institutions where the misconduct happened have since enacted policies to prevent such harassment. And Yoder is no longer a threat, having died in 1997. So why is his story worth revisiting?
Rachel Goossen, the historian who recently researched Yoder's past for the Mennonite church, said that Yoder's works and writings did not die with him. They continue to be reprinted and have a formative place in the theological realm. Such studies require context.
"It's important to know that while he was incredibly influential in his lifetime and also after his death in his writings on nonviolence, Yoder was also perpetrating . . .
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.