The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

St. Joe’s reacts to priest abuse

A student bows her head during the closing blessing at mass in the Chapel of Saint Joseph on Sept. 2 (Photo by Luke Malanga ’20).

St. Joe’s community responds to grand jury report

Luke Malanga ’20 co-wrote this story. 

The Pennsylvania grand jury released a report revealing decades of sexual abuse of minors by more than 300 Catholic priests in parishes across the state on Aug. 14.

Just over a week later, University President Mark C. Reed, Ed.D., released a statement in response to the report via email.

“First and above all else, our thoughts and hearts are with the victims of such abuse. We grieve for and with them and pledge our support for their healing and peace,” Reed stated in the email. “I cannot underscore enough that we will not tolerate abuse in any form on our campus.”

Daniel Joyce, S.J., executive director of missions programs, said that, to him, when it comes to the safety and protection of children, there is no room for error.

“My faith or confidence in some of the Catholic Church leaders mentioned in the report is zero,” Joyce said in an email to The Hawk. “I do not envy people who have to make hard personnel decisions and figure out the truth in complicated situations.”

Joyce explained that, although the situation is tragic, his faith in God plays a major part in his dealing with the information in the report.

“The reality unfortunately is that this tragedy was created by hundreds of people making horrible decisions over decades and the causes of this mess are pervasive and complex,” Joyce said.

However, Joyce said he believes the Church can move to do better. He explained that he supports the idea of the dioceses of Pennsylvania and their insurance companies creating an independently managed fund to support victims and survivors of abuse more immediately, as it would take years to wait for the state to lift the statute of limitations only to provide limited support.

Additionally, Joyce said that the report demonstrates that the Church needs a new management structure in order to prevent similar situations from happening in the future.

In order to do so, Joyce explained, Church officials who had been involved with covering up such crimes should resign from their posts and admit their wrongs.

He also added that, in the future, priests and Church officials should not be given sole control of their parishes and dioceses. Instead, Joyce said, they should include lay people in their decision making.

“Students should also demand new leadership structures for the Catholic Church, as we have been failed by those that exist,” Joyce said in the email.

After reading the report, St. Joe’s alumna Alyssa Duffner ’17 co-organized a rally for Catholics for Action with Mary Haggerty, 24, a student at Villanova School of Law. The rally, which took place at Sister Cities Park in Center City, drew a crowd of about 30 people, according to Duffner.

“I was really upset that the Church was abusing children, especially because I’m a person who really relies on my faith and I’m very spiritual,” Duffner said. “I can’t imagine that the place where I found so much love would abuse me in some way.”

Duffner also said that her activism concerning sexual violence goes beyond the Church’s recent scandal.

“Everybody, whether they know it or not, knows somebody that is affected by sexual violence, so it just felt like something that I needed to speak up about,” Duffner said. “I wanted to do [the rally] to let survivors know that there are Catholics that stand with them and that want to change and that want to see justice happen for them.”

Thomas Sheibley, director of campus ministry, said that the report was a “horrible, horrible thing to find out.”

“Reading it gave me chills,” Sheibley said. “It’s the exact opposite of what the Church should be. It’s the exact opposite of the expectation of what ordained priests in the Church should be.”

Sheibley explained that, although he understands how people might want to leave the Church after such a revelation, he does not see much sense in leaving himself.

“The Church is not the property or ownership of the clergy or bishops,” Sheibley said. “The Church is the body of Christ that I and all other baptized Catholics belong to. And there are horrible people that are part of this Church that have done some horrible things. But that doesn’t make it their Church and not my Church.”

Aaron Lemma ’20 holds a sign reading “Want to be Catholic?” at the Activities Fair to recruit new students
for the Rites of Christian Initiation for Adults (Photo by Luke Malanaga ’20).

Adam Mullin ’20, who serves as the sacristan of the chapel, said that he felt anguish, anger and frustration with the Church hierarchy after learning of the report.

“From my personal feeling, it was the sense of why or how the institution could get in the way of caring for the individuals,” Mullin said. “It seemed as though the high-ranking officials let the need to save face get in the way of dealing with more serious issues that need to be addressed.”

Mullin said he felt conflicted about St. Joe’s response to the report, because “what can the school do beyond denouncing the allegations?”

Mullin felt that campus ministry had provided an appropriate response.

“The priests on campus have done an exceptional job of explaining that this is not something that is normal or that should be tolerated in any way,” Mullin said. “I think it’s important to find answers and reconciliation within the Church as well.”

Aaron Lemma ’20, who serves as a catechist for the on-campus chapter of the RCIA (Rites of Christian Initiation for Adults), explained that the report did not change how he viewed his faith.

Instead, Lemma said he will continue his efforts to bring interested students and members of the general community into the Church through the RCIA. At the fall 2018 semester Activities Fair, he held a sign which read, “Want to be Catholic?”

Lemma explained that his faith goes beyond the Church to the core of Christianity.

“These recent scandals are a tragedy just like the scandals in the past,” Lemma said. “But the sins of people do not affect the truths of the faith. This is a faith that goes back to the person of Jesus and the truth of who that person was.”

View Comments (1)
Donate to The Hawk News

Your donation will support the student journalists of St. Joseph's University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Hawk News

Comments (1)

All The Hawk News Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • M

    Mike DuffySep 6, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    Thank you for an objective article. As grad of SJU and Catholic high school in the 60’s, I knew three of the offenders(none at SJU). As a teen, I found each of the bad priests “weird” and avoided them. I was not surprised when they were named
    As far as the attack on Catholicism, keep in mind that we are the Catholics. Our faith is deep rooted in our hearts. We pray daily and we administer most of the Sacraments. So pray and live good Catholic lives. In our parishes, demand that all workers, including Priests, be trained yearly in dealing with children and all parishioners with best behaviors. You are the Church.