Jesuits Announce Reparations Plan
The Jesuits have announced that they are opening a fund that will pay descendants of African slaves owned by Georgetown University reparations for horrific multi-generational pain and trauma. No amount of money can reverse this terrible legacy, but doing something like this is the right thing to do. We certainly believe that those harmed through slavery deserve recompense for their pain.
We hope that this move by the Jesuits underscores a general shift in recognizing historical wrongs and taking meaningful, concrete steps to correct them. We also hope this process with the Georgetown Memory Project is completely and unsparingly documented so that it becomes the beacon of truth for what occurred at Georgetown and anywhere else Jesuits committed similar amoral acts.
In our view, the Jesuits should, in addition, be taking steps to recognize the abuse and trauma that has been perpetrated against Black Americans in more recent times due to the scourge of clergy sexual abuse. As the Jesuits seek to make corrections for historical wrongs, they should examine their role in this ongoing scandal as well.
Finally, we know that Georgetown is not the only college founded by US or Canadian Jesuits, and also that it is not the only Jesuit institution associated with Jesuit and clerical wrongdoing. Jesuits are also associated with Santa Clara University, the historic location of a California Mission that enslaved and exploited Native Americans. Gonzaga University in Eastern Washington has housed dozens of Jesuit priests who exploited hundreds of children in the northwest and elsewhere, many of them poor and minority. Canadian Jesuits have yet to publish a list of clerical abusers. That list, when it is done, should incorporate the Georgetown lessons and talk about the exploitation of minorities in that country.
We hope that this restorative justice effort being lead by the Georgetown Memory Project and supported by those at Georgetown who recognize this historic shame will cause the Jesuits specifically and the Catholic Church in the United States in general to expand their horizons to look completely as the Jesuits’ and Catholics mixed history of service and shame in this country.
It also should go without saying that more needs to be done. Over 100 religious orders operate in the United States. We suspect that many built their wealth on the backs of Blacks, Hispanics, and immigrant Asians. We applaud the Jesuits for this initial step, and more importantly, we are grateful to the brave descendants of the Georgetown slaves who have made this reckoning real.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)