Over the past week, one of the most in-depth and comprehensive reports about the Roman Catholic clergy abuse scandal was issued by a grand jury in Pennsylvania.
Though similar in nature to many revelations that have come to light in recent years, the Pennsylvania report was particularly shocking due to its scope. It detailed abuse by more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years, revealing details on more than 1,000 identifiable victims in six of the state's eight Catholic dioceses.
As horrific at those numbers are, what has drawn particularly harsh criticism was the report's conclusion that bishops and other Church leaders sought to persuade victims not to report abuse and law enforcement not to investigate allegations of abuse. This report, along with the recent resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, have brought disgrace to the forefront once again.
We share in the deep pain and sorrow that the on-going scandal has inflicted on its victims. Le Moyne College has been at the forefront of educating and informing our own administrators, staff and faculty on this issue. As early as 2011 we also began working to inform the general public by offering a four-day symposium on the crisis
that was held on campus. We will work to develop similar programming and events during the upcoming academic year that will further dialogue and enhance understanding of the multiple aspects that surround this dark chapter in the Church's history.
In light of this report, what is sometimes lost are the significant safeguards and measures that have been developed to prevent future abuse. In a letter last week to members of the Syracuse Diocese, Bishop Robert Cunningham stated: "Over the past 15 years, since the crisis broke in 2002, the Diocese of Syracuse has addressed this problem aggressively by reporting all allegations to the appropriate district attorney, ensuring that no priest with a credible allegation of abuse remains in ministry, and preventing acts of abuse through our highly successful Safe Environment Program. There are now nearly 40,000 individuals trained in child sexual abuse prevention as well as criminally background checked."
While encouraging, much remains to be done. And any steps that have been or will be taken do not change the fact that so many have suffered for decades as the result of this unconscionable abuse and the abject moral failure of Church leaders that allowed it to continue. The heinous and shameful acts detailed in this recent report, like those before it, are almost incomprehensible.
The damning nature of this report can be overwhelming, but we must not forget the decades-long positive contributions that the Jesuits and other priests have made to the College and the Syracuse Diocese. Despite the disgraceful behavior of both the perpetrators and the bishops who hid them, we give thanks for the vast majority of priests, both here and in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, who live generous lives of faithful service.
At times like this, when it seems that words or even actions do little to heal those impacted by these reprehensible acts, it can be comforting to turn to the power of the Le Moyne community and to God to help us through. We pray that the innocent victims, many who are reliving this painful time in their lives through the release of this report, find the strength and fortitude they need during this difficult time.
Linda M. LeMura, President
Donald J. Kirby, S.J., Superior of the Le Moyne Jesuit Community