Gonzaga Report on Catholic Sexual Abuse Crisis Recommends Next Steps, Path Forward for Healing and Justice
This week Gonzaga University published a report and recommendations from its Commission on University Response to the Catholic Sexual Abuse Crisis.
According to the Commission’s webpage, it was formed in 2019 to identify, discuss and make recommendations regarding formal actions the university should undertake in response to the clergy abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, particularly, in light of the priests with credible allegations of abuse who had ties to Gonzaga – including those who once lived at Cardinal Bea House.
The Commission grouped its recommendations in five key areas: Academics, Memorials and Liturgies, Mission Identity, Policy and Procedure, and Tribal Relations. Specific recommendations include:
- A memorial honoring all affected by Catholic sexual abuse, to include those abused by Jesuits sent to live on safety plans at Cardinal Bea House.
- More formal protocols between the University and the Society of Jesus regarding assignment of Jesuits to Gonzaga.
- Greater support for Indigenous and Native students at Gonzaga, which includes funding scholarships and support for students, as well as fostering open communication.
- Funding for faculty research and scholarly activities on this topic.
“I’m deeply grateful for the time and reflection that the Commission devoted to this important and complex issue,” said Gonzaga President Thayne McCullo in a press release. “My hope is that this document guides our decisions and actions as we demonstrate our solidarity with victim-survivors, deepen our understanding of the systemic abuse within the Church and its far-reaching impacts, work together as community to address and where possible repair broken trust, and advance the apostolic and educational mission of Gonzaga University.”
Gonzaga has already moved forward on several recommendations. In September, 2020, the university renamed and rededicated the former Center for American Indian Studies as the sčintxw Native American Cultural Center. The Salish word, pronounced s-CHEEN-t-wh, describes a place where Native students can feel at home. This fall the University will commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Center with a forum to hear from and amplify voices of Native students.
The Commission also recommended the establishment of a fund dedicating $10,000 annually for faculty research and scholarly activities related to the topic of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. After receiving the report, McCulloh adopted the recommendation and approved a minimum of $15,000 for the new Social Justice & the Catholic Sexual Abuse Crisis Fund. Beginning this academic year, faculty may apply for a grant for independent research, bring scholars to campus, or generate other collaborative engagements.
Additionally, McCulloh has authorized a University steering committee recommended by the Commission to ensure successful implementation of the report’s recommendations. The steering committee will be informed by working groups to include faculty, staff, students, and other community representatives.
Tracy Simmons is an award winning journalist specializing in religion reporting, digital entrepreneurship and social journalism. In her 15 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti.
Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas and Connecticut. Currently she serves as the executive director of SpokaneFAVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Wash. She is also a Scholarly Assistant Professor at Washington State University.