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2019 Notre Dame Forum speakers announced

| Thursday, September 12, 2019

This report was updated Sept. 12 at 1:30pm.

The University announced in a Wednesday press release the seven individuals who will speak on Sept. 25 over the course of the 2019 Notre Dame Forum.

The forum, titled “‘Rebuild My Church’: Crisis and Response,” intends to continue the Catholic Church’s ongoing discussion about how to address revelations of systematic sex abuse by clergy uncovered by the Aug. 14, 2018 Pennsylvania Grand Jury report.

Four people will speak in a panel at the forum entitled “The Church Crisis: Where Are We Now?” The speakers are archbishop of Baltimore, William Lori; Kathleen McChesney, former executive assistant director at the FBI; Juan Carlos Cruz, advocate for survivors of clergy abuse; and Peter Steinfels, former editor at Commonweal and former columnist for the New York Times.

“Notre Dame stands in solidarity with the victims of the clergy sex abuse scandal,” University President Fr. John Jenkins said in the release. “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.”

According to the release, Pope Francis appointed Lori to investigate both sexual harassment and “financial impropriety” on the part of the former bishop of Wheeling-Charleston in West Virginia.

Lori, who is known for leading a number of progressive reforms in the Church, has a controversial history on these subjects, as it was found he made repeated efforts to protect the identities of abusive clergy and many powerful Church leaders with ties to them.

McChesney was among those hired by the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to help form the Dallas Charter as well as investigate allegations of abuse. McChesney now consults dioceses and other religious organization on sexual abuse prevention, the release said.

Cruz has been an activist for Church reform since he came forward with allegations of sexual abuse against prominent Chilean priest Fr. Fernando Karadima in 2010. For years, however, the Vatican dismissed his claims. After the allegations of abuse were found credible in 2018, Pope Francis apologized and invited Cruz to the Vatican for a one-on-one meeting.

Steinfels is a former editor for Catholic opinion magazine Commonweal, and was an opinion columnist with the New York Times from 1990 to 2010. In 2003, he published a book titled “A People Adrift” in response to the 2002 Archdiocese of Boston sex abuse scandal. He also wrote a column responding to the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report in 2018.

John Allen, editor of Catholic news outlet Crux and Vatican beat reporter, will moderate.

According to the release, a handful of additional programming will accompany the panel.

Archbishop of Malta, Charles Scicluna will lead a discussion about the abuse scandal with the tri-campus community Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. in the Dahnke Ballroom. Scicluna leads the Vatican in sex abuse investigations.

The University will also host a lecture by Case Western professor of religion Brian Clites titled “Sacred Protests: Politics and Faith after Clergy Sexual Abuse” Nov. 4 at the Morris Inn. According to the Notre Dame Forum website, the lecture will “offer an ethnographic exploration of Catholic abuse survivors’ protests, examining not only the reforms that victims seek​ ​but also the conflicting emotions that they feel toward their church.”

Additionally, on Sept. 21, the McGrath Institute for Church Life will publish its research on “sexual harassment and Catholic seminary culture” at the 2019 Religion News Association Conference in Las Vegas, the release said. The McGrath report represents the first such research related to seminarians and was conducted exclusively by lay people.

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