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Task Force Helps Healing Process

In October, the University established a Task Force on Healing, Reconciliation and Hope to lead the University’s response “together with the people of the Diocese and Catholics everywhere to address the difficult but necessary questions that arise from the grand jury report,” which was released to the public in August and details sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Pennsylvania.

“The Task Force will help us harness the full range of resources that The University of Scranton, as a Catholic and Jesuit university, can offer the church in this painful but pivotal moment,” University President Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., wrote in an announcement to the University community about the establishment of the Task Force. “Their work will imagine and plan how we can respond, in ways both simple and sophisticated, to the needs of God’s people.”

In February, the Task Force updated the University community on the results of its online survey and multiple feedback sessions, in which the Task Force heard from students, faculty and staff about their concerns, ideas and recommendations for program development. Forty-two members of the community attended feedback sessions, and 237 responded to the survey. They found that most respondents were aware of the Church’s official response to the sex abuse scandal at various levels (local parish, diocesan, Vatican); more than half were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the Church’s response; and 36 percent admitted their faith was weakened because of the report.

While the Task Force recognized that the sample was not representative of the entire campus community, it was able to draw some conclusions about themes and approaches to future program development thanks to open-ended questions. For example, through talks, panels, prayer, art and listening support, it plans to address, among other topics, the effects of sexual trauma on survivors; church policies and responses to sexual abuse at the diocesan and universal levels; the spiritual and moral authority of the Church in the wake of the report; and clericalism as a contributing theological and cultural factor.

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