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About

Project Description and Goals

The past four decades have witnessed horrifying revelations concerning sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church. The long-lasting harm and suffering inflicted on vulnerable victim-survivors, the evil and scandal perpetrated by abusers, and the sorry record of silence, denial, or cover-up on the parts of church leaders have precipitated a crisis of faith, trust, and moral and spiritual credibility.

Like other religious orders around the world, the Society of Jesus in the United States has been called to account for its own part in this scandalous history. Since December 2018, all of the U.S. Jesuit provinces have publicly disclosed the names of members and former members credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors, and many Jesuit high schools, colleges, and universities have responded by undertaking self-reflection and self-criticism concerning their own histories.

Fordham’s Taking Responsibility initiative aims to respond to this historical moment, yoking rigorous study to practical change. Its overall aim is to explore the relationship between the structures of Roman Catholic and Jesuit institutions of secondary and higher education and the phenomena of clergy sexual abuse and its systematic concealment. Through original research by Fordham faculty and our partners at other institutions, we are interested in learning more about the structural, cultural, and other features of Jesuit educational institutions that, in the past, facilitated both abuse and concealment. We believe that the insight we will gain will enable us to recommend methods, including changes in culture and policy, that Jesuit educational institutions may use to repair the harms caused by sexual abuse and its concealment, as well as to move into the future as leaders in ensuring the protection and well-being of children and vulnerable adults.

Our key goals for the two-year period of the grant include the following:

  1. support for rigorous, focused investigations into aspects of clerical sexual abuse as they have manifested at Jesuit institutions;
  2. the production of resources aimed at assisting Jesuit administrators, faculty, staff, students, and others to examine the causes, history, and consequences of sexual abuse, as well as ethical considerations about our responsibility in the present day;
  3. the facilitation of ongoing conversation, including through regular online and offline meetings for consultation and study and a major conference in Spring 2022; and
  4. the development of a partner network of Jesuit educational institutions through which this work can continue.