Catholic Church child sex abuse scandal emits a response from DeSales

By Chris Shaddock

Editor-in-Chief

On Aug. 14, a report was released called the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report which entailed an investigation of six Catholic Dioceses within Pennsylvania due to allegations of child sex abuse in the Catholic Church. One of these dioceses was Allentown. Bishop Joseph McShea and Bishop Thomas Welsh, which DeSales’ McShea Student Union and Welsh Hall were respectively named after, were involved in covering up incidences of child sex abuse within their diocese while they were in charge.

Due to naming two buildings after these bishops and DeSales itself being a Catholic institution, the university has made an effort to make amends regarding this scandal. Within DeSales, the Welsh and McShea buildings are being renamed, respectively, as Annecy Hall and Dorothy Day Student Union.

“I write to share the news that, in light of what we learned from the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report about the roles of Bishop Joseph McShea and Bishop Thomas Welsh in not protecting children and young people from clergy sexual abuse, DeSales University will remove their names from our University buildings,” said DeSales’ President Father Greenfield.  “After consultation with the University’s Board of Trustees and with this afternoon’s faculty meeting and last evening’s dialogue with students completed, I officially announce this decision that expresses our solidarity with and compassion for victims of child sexual abuse, an evil that must be eradicated in our church and society.”

On Aug. 28 Greenfield also had a townhall meeting at the DUC called “DeSales in Dialogue,” where he stood in front of a crowd of concerned students, faculty members and alumni to discuss the reports and what it means for both Catholics and DeSales as a whole. Greenfield first spoke to relay his disturbance and disappointment towards the news and to relay his sympathy to the victims of these abuses, which then led to an open discussion about the matter.

The first question asked was particularly striking as it set the tone for the rest of the meeting. It went along the lines of, “Are you afraid of renaming the building after another clergy member because it might later come out that they were involved in the scandal as well?”

Greenfield stood silent for a few moments, then, with complete transparency, he answered, “Yes.”

A lot of people spoke about their concerns regarding the report and its revelations, in particular on how the Church will acknowledge the scandal, how acts of child sexual abuse were occurring among priests, why the Church would have them covered up and whether or not Catholics were able to trust their clergy members.

In general, Greenfield was transparent about the people’s concerns, and he listened thoughtfully. The building name changes and the townhall meeting were both pushed by Greenfield. The report is something he is taking seriously, and he wants the members of the DeSales community to feel safe within the university. As a Catholic and a clergy member, Greenfield is saddened by the events that have been transpiring. In the townhall meeting, he was particularly saddened to hear the current Bishop of the Allentown Dioceses was involved in covering up the scandal while still a monsignor in the dioceses.

“As the leader of our University community, I value our students’ voices,” Greenfield commented. “What’s more, I felt the need for us to teach them how to engage tough issues through civil, honest and respectful dialogue.  They are the future leaders of our parish councils and church service programs.  It is my hope that they are learning how to take responsibility for what is truly theirs.  I was edified by the candor, thoughtfulness and maturity of our students who expressed their questions, confusion and pain when well over 100 people gathered last night for a ‘DeSales in Dialogue’ conversation on this topic.”

Father Kevin Nadolski, who is DeSales’ new Vice President for Missions, is working on having more open dialogue within DeSales ranging on all kinds of controversial topics.

Annecy is named after Annecy, France which is the birthplace of St. Francis de Sales. The Dorothy Day Student Union is named after Dorothy Day, who was a journalist and activist for women’s suffrage in the Catholic Church. Greenfield claimed he wanted to name one of the buildings after a woman, and Day is a figure who inspires him.

“We feel strongly that DeSales University is a safe environment for all people,” Greenfield said. “It is also an environment where our students learn essential skills and are formed in the Gospel that calls them to speak the truth and discuss it with gentleness and humility in the example of our patron, St. Francis de Sales. His faithful collaborator and beloved spiritual friend, St. Jane de Chantal, who was also a mother of six children, once wrote: ‘If we find our limbs stiff in walking, let us not lose heart, but say with resolute courage: ‘Lord, draw me, and I shall run.’  Let us not doubt that the Savior, when he sees our courage in walking by every path he wills for us, will give us to rejoice and be glad in the beauty of his bounty.’  We may feel as if our limbs are quite stiff, maybe we are sick and tired from walking with the church on this path of healing from child sexual abuse.

“Nevertheless, our mission calls us forth to run, not to lose heart, and to have courage, for we believe heartily in the grace of God and the genuine goodness of the people who comprise our school community. Together, we can advance the great name, rich history, and bright future of DeSales University.”

The Pennsylvania Grand Jury report is heavily detailed in information regarding the child sex abuse within the Church. It is available to everyone and can be found at https://www.attorneygeneral.gov. While the information is not necessarily for the faint of heart, anyone concerned about these issues should look into it. Anyone who has any questions regarding the scandal and how it centers on the Catholic identity should contact Vice President of Missions Kevin Nadolski at kevin.nadolski@desales.edu or 610-282-1100.

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