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Time to Step Up to the Plate

Apr 08, 2011 — Categories: ,

This is the letter sent to the Seattle University community following the announcement in the press of a settlement of $166 million with over 500 survivors of sexual abuse by northwest Jesuits.

This is the letter sent to the Seattle University community following the announcement in the press of a settlement of $166 million with over 500 survivors of sexual abuse by northwest Jesuits.

Dear Colleagues and Students at Seattle University,

As you may be aware, the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus has announced a financial settlement in the Province’s bankruptcy. The settlement is with those persons who have made claims of sexual abuse. I am able to share with you the following public statement issued by the Very Rev. Patrick Lee, S.J., Provincial Superior, Oregon Province, Society of Jesus, on Friday, March 25, 2011:

Due to the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province's current Chapter 11 bankruptcy status, as well as out of respect for the judicial process and all involved, we will not comment on today's announcement. The Province continues to work with the Creditors Committee to conclude the bankruptcy process as promptly as possible.

As the Province takes concluding steps related to the bankruptcy process, please pray for all those who were abused as well as their families who suffered with them. As Jesuits, we must not lose sight of the victims and our shared sorrow for the harm that was done. Our focus remains on the work of reconciliation, compassion and healing, on the protection of children, and on our overall apostolic mission.

Sincerely yours,

Patrick Howell, S.J.
Rector, the Arrupe Jesuit Community at Seattle University

Dear Fr. Howell:

I appreciate your effort to let the Seattle University community know about the settlements with over 500 survivors of sexual abuse by Jesuits in the Oregon Province as reported in the Seattle Times on March 25. I also appreciate your expression of concern for the survivors.

I believe that additional words could help provide a framework for the Jesuits and the wider community to understand what this means.

This is what I would have liked to have read:

As you may be aware, the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus has announced a settlement in which they will make payment to over 500 survivors who were sexually abused by Jesuits in the Oregon Province.

As Jesuits, we must look deeply in our souls and consider how our brothers could have engaged in this harm to vulnerable children. We must consider how our community could be so contradictory to who we say we are. We must consider how our community allowed these actions by Jesuits to be covered up for so long. We must find ways to hold accountable those who are responsible.

We want to thank the courageous survivors who have come forward and shared their experiences often at great risk to themselves and their families. They have given our community the opportunity to confess and seek repentance as well as to make restitution to them, which we pray will contribute in some small way to their healing. We pray that God will continue to guide us in seeking ways to make justice where we have been responsible for injustice and harm to the most vulnerable. We pray for the courage and strength to not only right these wrongs but also to do everything in our power to insure that all persons with whom we minister in many different settings be kept safe from harm.

Yours in Christ,

I’m sure that these circumstances are very painful to Jesuits who have been faithful to their calling as expressed on their website: “We will stand by those who experience discrimination and alienation and we will continue to protect the most vulnerable in our society and preach the Good News of Christ’s redemptive love . . .”

This is an opportunity, in the face of great pain and brokenness, for Jesuits to take leadership, trusting in God’s guidance.

Your sister in Christ,

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
Adjunct Faculty, School of Theology and Ministry
Seattle University
Founder and Senior Analyst
FaithTrust Institute

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Stepping up to the plate.

Posted by Emily at Apr 09, 2011 06:13 PM
Well put, Marie! That is exactly what we need to hear.One would think that these that Patrick Howell, S.J, w/ all his understanding of what an authentic confession is, would be able to be as clear as yourself and w/o mincing his words.


Step up to the plate

Posted by Jerry McCloskey at Apr 09, 2011 06:24 PM
Very good commentary. But when I first saw the title I thought you were talking about the Mariners and their opening night game.

Keep up the good work.


Step up to the Plate

Posted by Robert Fontana at Apr 18, 2011 12:08 PM
Fr. Howell writes a contrite letter saying very little. Dr. Fortune says what needs to be said. Both are polite but are missing something, OUTRAGE! Thankfully, the Survivors have become OUTRAGED and have acted to demand change that would never have come without taking the fight to the courts.

How utterly sad that the Jesuits and other Catholics, and the Christian community at large, are not OUTRAGED by the criminal behavior of Jesuit who abused, leaders who protected the abusers, and rank-and-file members who turned their heads.

Blog comment

Posted by Jaime at Apr 18, 2011 12:28 PM
Right on. Thanks for spelling out how to invite action and be a bit transparent in the reconciliation and transformation process. The fact that all this is left unannounced speaks to the level of unconscious incompetency in the institution. Peace.