The ongoing sexual abuse crisis that has plagued the Catholic Church over the years has been devastating to many of us who are Catholics. Through these fractured times for our faith, I remind myself of what the Church has taught me and continues to teach me, how it has kept me grounded through my years, and how I can use its teaching to lead a Jesuit Catholic institution that lives up to the ideals of our Jesuit heritage and core values. As we know, the central charism of St. Ignatius himself was the gift of leadership. Today, the leadership of our Church and our institutions is being tested like never before. I believe it is time for all of us, with critical reflection and the gift of God’s grace, to be proactive and advocate for the healing and well-being of all survivors and their families, and to strive together for systemic cultural change through honesty and transparency.
To that end, many dioceses and Jesuit provinces are taking steps forward by disclosing lists of priests and brothers who have been the subjects of credible claims of sexual abuse against minors, going back many decades. The Northeast Province of Jesuits, which includes New York state, released its list today. We at Le Moyne recognize the importance of these public disclosures, and we are profoundly disturbed by the circumstances they suggest and deeply saddened by this pain and suffering.
There is no person presently associated with Le Moyne College on any of these lists and we have not received allegations of sexual abuse against any current faculty or staff member, whether Jesuit or lay. There are one Jesuit priest named on the Northeast Province list and two priests on the Diocese of Syracuse list who have a historic connection to Le Moyne College from decades ago: Father Roy A. Drake, S.J. (deceased), who was a faculty member from 1978-1979 and 1985-1993; Father John P. Wagner, who was an adjunct instructor from 1975-1990 and in 1993; and Father Francis J. Furfaro (deceased), who served as an adjunct faculty member in 1948. At this time, we have no knowledge of any allegations against Fr. Drake, Fr. Wagner or Fr. Furfaro involving any member of the Le Moyne community, but each is subject to credible claims regarding acts committed elsewhere.
In keeping with our commitment to transparency, we are aware of a credible claim from one of our alumni that is not represented on the above lists since it does not relate to a minor, involving historical allegations of sexual assault of a Le Moyne College student more than 20 years ago by Father James F. O’Brien, S.J. (deceased). We understand that the Le Moyne administration and Jesuit community leadership took action upon learning of the incident, and permanently removed Fr. O’Brien from Le Moyne into retirement. We acknowledge the incredible courage of survivors who have come forward to share their stories, including our alumni, and pledge to contribute to the healing and well-being of all survivors, their families and loved ones, while also respecting their confidentiality. We sincerely hope this acknowledgment helps survivors know that they are heard, that their experiences matter, and that the Le Moyne community will embrace them and share our strength, support and compassion.
We deeply regret any abuse that occurred on our campus. We encourage survivors and any member of our community to reach out to the resources available to you and to report sexual harassment, misconduct or abuse allegations to these resources and to law-enforcement agencies as appropriate. Resources for alumni and members of our campus community include Roger Stackpoole ’86, senior vice president at (315) 445-4174 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and Deborah Cady Melzer Ph.D., vice president for Student Development at (315) 445-4527 or email@example.com; and we also suggest that you contact the USA Northeast Province Victim Assistance Coordinator, Kristin Austin, at (443) 370-6357 or to UNEadvocacy@jesuits.org. Any accusations received by the College involving a minor will be reported to law enforcement.
Our goal as a place of higher learning is to further the dialogue and enhance understanding of the multiple aspects that surround this horrific chapter in the Church's history. And even as we note that significant safeguards and measures have since been developed to guard against abuse and misconduct, including on our campus, Le Moyne is also reviewing and evaluating our policies and procedures to ensure they foster the trust, safety and dignity that we cherish. While we place the utmost importance on our partnership with our Catholic and Jesuit brethren, we are committed to acting independently with full transparency and openness, in the best interests of our Le Moyne community and in demonstration of our values.
Part of our path forward is to reflect on the rich history of exemplary teaching and scholarship by Jesuits in many disciplines over the course of 500 years. They have shown the coherence between learning and faith with conviction, and a commitment to the greater good. Importantly, we have our own examples of stellar Jesuit colleagues over the course of Le Moyne’s young, progressive history. We must be careful not to lose sight of their contribution as a result of the deplorable acts committed by some members of the clergy. Our true test of leadership, then, involves compassion for survivors and their families, the determination to advocate for our ideals and our faith, and the resolve to maintain open hearts and minds with our own Jesuit community at Le Moyne.
Now is the time for us to step up and emulate St. Ignatius—to be a leader in our communications, actions, programs and services as we seek to understand and contribute to the healing of all who have suffered. As you know, I am incredibly proud to lead the Le Moyne community, where we support each other and where you all prove our shared commitment to ethics, service and intellectual rigor every day. Starting in 2011, Le Moyne hosted panels exploring the portrayal of and responses to issues relating to the sex abuse scandal, and we remain focused on fostering a safe space for an open dialogue on this tragedy and educating ourselves on how to move forward, guided by conversations and actions. Our ongoing efforts include campus events such as a forthcoming symposium on Gender, Sexuality and Power in the Church sponsored by the Sanzone Center for Catholic Studies and Theological Reflection, as well as a program for senior Church leaders led by our own Father David McCallum, S.J. and colleagues from Georgetown and ESADE with Father John Dardis, S.J., who serves as Counselor for Discernment and Apostolic Planning for the Society of Jesus. This program is intended to support Church leadership in charting a path forward for innovation and renewal. We expect many more opportunities to come.
Through these intellectual pursuits, the bravery of survivors, compassion and strength from God and the power and love of our community, I believe now more than ever that the quest for change the Church so desperately needs will come to fruition, and will bring us all even closer to the vision that Christ intended.
Linda M. LeMura, Ph.D.