Notre Dame’s annual Forum: Church crisis and response

Author: Notre Dame News

Forum 2019-20
Forum 2019-20

A select group of expert panelists will launch the 2019-20 Notre Dame Forum, “‘Rebuild My Church’: Crisis and Response,” with a discussion on “The Church Crisis: Where Are We Now?” on Sept. 25 (Wednesday) at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.

Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., president of the University of Notre Dame, called for this year’s Forum to examine the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church and explore possible reforms. This year’s theme echoes God’s summons to St. Francis of Assisi during a time of Church corruption in the late Middle Ages.

“Notre Dame stands in solidarity with the victims of the clergy sex abuse scandal,” Father Jenkins said. “Our community is called to prayer, and also to understanding and action. We must learn what conditions gave rise to the abuse, what has been done to address it in American dioceses and around the world and how best to prevent this scourge moving forward.”

Panelists for the Sept. 25 Notre Dame Forum are:

  • Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, who was appointed by Pope Francis to investigate allegations of sexual harassment and financial impropriety by the former bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.
  • 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, 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 a 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, wrote 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, who will serve as moderator, and who published this column on the Notre Dame Forum.

Just prior to this panel, the University’s McGrath Institute for Church Life will release research on sexual harassment and Catholic seminary culture. This first-of-its-kind survey of current Catholic seminarians — conducted entirely by laity — will be unveiled Sept. 21 (Saturday) at the 2019 Religion News Association Conference in Las Vegas.

The Notre Dame Forum will also welcome Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta on Nov. 13 (Wednesday). Archbishop Scicluna leads the Vatican’s fight against sexual abuse and will hold a conversation with Notre Dame students in the Duncan Student Center.

In October 2018, following the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, Father Jenkins announced a series of initiatives the University would undertake to address the scandal. One was the establishment of a task force to oversee awards of up to $1 million in grants to Notre Dame faculty for research that helps address some aspect of the crisis. Applications are currently being evaluated.

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 Catholic artistic heritage, the challenges and opportunities of globalization, the role of presidential debates, immigration, sustainability and the place of faith in a pluralistic society.

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Contact: Amanda Skofstad, assistant director of media relations, 574-631-4313,