St. Mary’s University Panel Discusses Way Forward After Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal

Panelists at a St. Mary’s University symposium Thursday discussed what still needs to be done at the local, national, and global level to address the sexual abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church.

The panel of lay and religious people participating in The Crossroads Symposium, the inaugural event of St. Mary’s recently established Center for Catholic Studies, agreed that children needed to be at the center of policy and culture changes within the Catholic Church.

Since 2002, sexual abuse allegations have continued to surface across the globe, prompting an examination of how accusations were handled by the church. The majority of the occurrences were from 25 to as many as 60 years ago.

“Clergy sexual abuse of minors is a global issue,” said St. Mary’s President Thomas Mengler, who moderated the discussion.

Father Ron Rolheiser, president of the Oblate School of Theology, said working with victims of clergy sexual abuse gave him a first-hand look at the lasting damage of such abuse.

“I always thought [victim impact statements] were exaggerated until I began to work with survivors,” he said. “I found out they are not exaggerated. They are understated in terms of … there is no such thing as minor sexual abuse.”

To move forward, the church needs women in chancery offices, not just in consulting roles, but with real decision-making power, Rolheiser argued.

“We [priests] don’t have kids. We didn’t think of the kids first,” said Rolheiser. “If women and men with children had held decisional power in chancery offic...

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