SNAP Grateful as Assumption University Publicly Stands Behind Survivors of Clergy Abuse
For immediate release: March 6, 2023
In the last week, SNAP was notified about some decisions being made and actions being taken at a Catholic university in Massachusetts. This week, we are celebrating those decisions as an example of how other Catholic institutions across the globe should be handling issues related to clergy sexual abuse.
SNAP was recently informed by officials at Assumption University that a priest – unaffiliated with the university – who had been accused of sexually abusing a child and who was listed in the 2018 Pennsylvania Grand Jury report was also a significant donor to the college, an Augustinian university located in Worcester, MA. University officials at Assumption decided – even before speaking with SNAP – that rather than keep the money themselves or return it to the accused perpetrator, the gift would best be used to advance the cause of healing and justice for survivors of clergy sexual abuse in Pennsylvania. To that end, Assumption University has donated the entirety of this cleric's donations to SNAP in order to fund programs that will provide support opportunities for survivors of clergy sexual abuse throughout Pennsylvania.
Through their actions, Assumption University officials are setting an example for Catholic institutions around the world. They are demonstrating an earnest and thoughtful way to go beyond platitudes and take serious and significant action to help survivors heal. The University, its president, and its board of trustees deserve kudos and recognition for the thoughtful and survivor-focused way that they have managed the situation in which they found themselves.
The reality of this situation is that Assumption did not need to give this money to survivors. They easily could have kept quiet about the origin of these funds and they could have continued quietly taking money without questioning the intent or actions of the person behind those donations. But rather than enforce the status quo in the darkness, President Greg Weiner and the leadership of Assumption University have instead decided to lead in the sunlight.
It is important to recognize that this course of action was not foisted upon Assumption by legal proceedings or settlements. It was simply the moral certitude of Assumption University leaders that helped them make the choice to take an accused perpetrator’s money and give it to the abused. To say that this course of action is uncommon would be putting it lightly.
By taking the money donated by this man and giving it directly to survivors to help support programs that will help them heal, Assumption University has shown itself to be a leader in our movement. We are grateful to President Weiner and Assumption University for their actions, and especially their leadership. We hope that their example will compel other Catholic institutions around the world to find ways to partner with and fund survivor-centered organizations so that survivors are able to get the help and hope they need.
(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)