Does the Notre Dame Survey Demonstrate That Seminaries Are Safe? by Dr. Janet E. Smith

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(Alexey Gotovskiy/CNA)

COMMENTARY: The report suggests that sexual misconduct at some seminaries is rare, but it does not give an indication how large that group of ‘some’ is.

By Janet E. Smith, National Catholic Register, 10/9/19

When the news came out last summer that Theodore McCarrick had been abusing seminarians for decades and that his conduct was widely known, social media was filled with statements of concern by mothers who had been encouraging their sons to consider priestly vocations: Could they entrust their sons to seminaries?

Likely it was such concerns that led distinguished theologian John Cavadini, along with others at the McGrath Institute at the University of Notre Dame, in conjunction with the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown, to do a survey of the incidence of “sexual harassment, abuse and misconduct” in seminaries (hereafter “sexual harassment/abuse”).

Some critics say the results demonstrate that the problem of sexual harassment/abuse at seminaries is now minimal. Indeed, Bill Donohue of the Catholic League proclaimed that “Sexual Misconduct in Seminaries Is Rare.”

More Studies Needed

The report established no such thing and, in fact, raises so many questions that it indicates the need for much more study and vigilance at seminaries. It is noteworthy that the title of the report states that it is the “first” sociological survey of seminarians. ….