2019-20 Notre Dame Forum to examine sexual abuse crisis in Catholic Church

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Campus sunrise. Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame.

Campus sunrise. Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame.

Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., president of the University of Notre Dame, announced Wednesday (May 1) the theme of the 2019-20 Notre Dame Forum as “‘Rebuild My Church:’ Crisis and Response.”

“Rebuild my Church,” an allusion to God’s summons to St. Francis of Assisi, will examine the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church and explore reforms to which it should lead.

“While we must never fail to be honest and forthright about terrible acts of abuse and failures of oversight,” Father Jenkins said, “the forum is designed to be constructive and forward-looking.”

At the same time, Father Jenkins announced the establishment of a committee that will oversee the awarding of up to $1 million in grants to Notre Dame faculty for research that helps address some aspect of the current crisis.

The first event in the 2019 Notre Dame Forum series, “The Church Crisis: Where are We Now?” is scheduled for Sept. 25 and will include the following panelists who have confirmed their participation:

  • Kathleen McChesney, a former FBI executive assistant director, who was recruited by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to help the Church investigate victim allegations and to establish its “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”
  • Juan Carlos Cruz is a survivors’ advocate from Chile whose complaints were initially dismissed by Pope Francis. During a week of meetings at the Vatican, the pope subsequently apologized to Cruz during their first three-hour, one-on-one meeting.
  • Peter Steinfels, a Chicago native with a doctoral degree from Columbia University, is a lifelong journalist and educator who has written for Commonweal since 1964, authored the “Beliefs” column for The New York Times from 1990 to 2010 and wrote a lengthy review of the Pennsylvania attorney general’s report on Church misconduct.
  • John Allen, the editor of Crux, will serve as moderator of the Sept. 25 event.

Other panelists likely will be added to the first event. Subsequent Notre Dame Forum events over the course of the year will consider reforms to which the crisis should give rise.

Since its establishment in 2005, the Notre Dame Forum has featured major talks by leading authorities on issues of importance to the University, the nation and the larger world, including the challenges and opportunities of globalization, the role of presidential debates, immigration, sustainability and the place of faith in a pluralistic society.