Report recommends actions for Gonzaga to move beyond Catholic Church sexual abuse crisis

<p><p>Formalizing protocol to ensure sexually abusive Jesuits are prohibited from  missioning at Gonzaga University is one of around two dozen formal actions a commission has recommended for the university to move past previous Catholic Church’s abuse crisis.</p></p><p><p>The recommendations, outlined in a report released Wednesday, were made to Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh, who <a href=”” target=”_blank”>formed the 12-member commission in April 2019</a><strong> </strong>as the university faced criticism for allowing sexually abusive priests to live on campus.</p></p><p><p>“It is my belief that this report – and the recommendations contained within it,” McCulloh wrote in a letter to start the report, “will guide our actions and future way forward as we demonstrate our solidarity with victim-survivors, deepen our understanding, and work together as community to repair broken trust and advance the apostolic and educational mission of Gonzaga University.”</p></p><p><p>The commission formed less than a year after the results of 18-month grand jury investigation, <a href=”” target=”_blank”>more commonly known as the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report</a>, were released. This investigation identified hundreds of abusive priests as well as systemic efforts by church leadership to protect them. </p></p><p><p>More specific to Gonzaga, a December 2018 story published by the investigative podcast “Reveal”<strong> </strong>covered how the Society of Jesus <a href=”” target=”_blank”>sent priests linked with credible sexual abuse claims to live at Cardinal Bea House</a>, a Jesuit-owned building on the Gonzaga campus. Among them included James Poole, who admitted under oath that he sexually abused indigenous women and girls in Alaska.</p></p><p><p>The 46-page report prepared by the University Commission on Gonzaga’s Response to the Catholic Sexual Abuse Crisis details the context behind the group’s evaluation before concluding with the recommendations to McCulloh.</p></p><p><p>The group was co-chaired by Megan K. McCabe, assistant professor of religious studies, and Michelle Wheatley, vice president for mission and ministry. At least one Jesuit priest served in the group.</p></p><p><p>“However … the Commission considers this report the beginning of a new phase of work, including the launch of several working groups to continue advancing worthy, longer-term aspirations in accordance with the Commission’s mandate,” the report reads.</p></p><p><h3>Recommended actions</h3></p><p><p>The commission’s recommendations to McCulloh are defined through five focus areas: academics, memorials and liturgies, mission identity, policy and procedure, and tribal relations, as the commission recognized “the history of Catholic sexual abuse has disproportionately harmed Native communities.”</p></p><p><p>The recommendation for protocol ensuring abusive Jesuits are prohibited from missioning at the university was included under the policy and procedure umbrella.</p></p><p><p>Building on <a href=”” target=”_blank”>commitments from both McCulloh and Jesuits West</a>, according to the university, the recommendation calls for Gonzaga and Society of Jesus representatives to collaborate on the protocols, which should “clearly answer” the necessary conditions to allow a Jesuit with non-credible abuse allegations to be considered for assignment.</p></p><p><p>Some recommendations have already been approved. That includes a call for Gonzaga to devote at least $10,000 per year to fund faculty research into ways to address issues linked with Catholic Church sexual abuse.</p></p><p><p>This scholarship fund, named “Social Justice &amp; the Catholic Sexual Abuse Crisis,” could be used for reading groups, independent research or bringing scholars to campus for public talks. Wheatley and McCabe said the fund has been approved.</p></p><p><p>Other notable recommendations include the following, according to the report:</p></p><p><p>• Establish a permanent memorial to honor all affected by Catholic sexual abuse, “specifically those abused by Jesuits who were later housed in Cardinal Bea house living on safety plans.”</p></p><p><p>• Talk with Jesuit leadership about Bea House in a way “that may reimagine it as a space for future activities and works in service to the Jesuit mission in the university and region.”</p></p><p><p>• Develop ways to increase attention to the undergirding features of the Catholic abuse crisis across university curricula.</p></p><p><p>• Develop an installation or display to commemorate Gonzaga’s history and ongoing relationship with regional Native communities.</p></p><p><h3>‘Gonzaga must become more intentional’</h3></p><p><p>In reaching these recommendations, the commission was mindful not to ask or require anyone, including commission members themselves, to disclose their experiences with abuse.</p></p><p><p>“Throughout this journey, Commission members were humbled, awed, and inspired by how many community members shared their stories and how their perspectives strengthened this process,” the report read.</p></p><p><p>The commission was not tasked with investigating any impropriety, “though the task of establishing context necessarily included information gathering in some forms,” the report notes.</p></p><p><p>Accordingly, the report doesn’t delve deeply into the question of, “Who knew what when?”</p></p><p><p>“Some were more aware than others of the history of sexual abuse in the Province and the sending of credibly accused men to Bea House,” the report reads. “This variation in awareness, combined with a desire for greater institutional transparency and communication, led to a key takeaway: Gonzaga must become more intentional in owning and sharing the University’s story as well as navigating its relationship with the Society of Jesus.”</p></p>