Panel discusses past, future of sexual abuse in Catholic Church

Krystal Ortiz, Assistant News Editor

Iona College hosted a series of presentations and panels from March 11 to 13 that discussed the sexual abuse scandals involving the Catholic Church. The discussions included ways to examine, bring awareness to and prevent further sexual abuse incidents in the Catholic Church.


When introducing the first panel on March 11, Dr. Carl Procario-Foley, director of the Office of Mission and Ministry, described the panels as vital.


“We seek to become better advocates towards survivors of sex abuse, all the while trying to do our part to make sure these acts of abuse do not continue,” Procario-Foley said.


The panel started with a film showing of the award-winning movie “Spotlight,” which depicts the investigation of priests accused of sexually abusing children by journalists from the Boston Globe. The panel discussion that followed included individuals that hold expertise in the topic, such as film critic Marshall Fine, Public Relations and Marketing Adjunct Professor Mary Durkin, and Dr. Jack Breslin, professor for Mass Communications.


The panel on March 12 began with a keynote address titled “Sex Abuse Crisis in the Catholic Church: Reckoning, Repentance and Renewal.” David Gibsondirector of the Center of Religion and Culture at Fordham University, gave the speech.


Dr. Catherine Smith, professor in the Philosophy department, gave the next speech. Her address was then followed by a prayer for Repentance and Healing offered in front of the Celtic Cross on East Hill.

This was succeeded by a keynote titled, “Clerical Sin and Redemption – A Medieval Perspective,” which was given by Dr. Christina Carlson, an associate professor in the English department.


The day concluded with a final keynote speech titled, “Is Pedophilia the Correct Term: Ephebophilia and the Church-A History,” by Dr. James T. Carroll, professor of American History.


Junior Christina Marquez attended the panel and said that she found the topic important but uncomfortable.


“It’s definitely something that is prevalent nowadays,” Marquez said. “It does need to be talked about even though it’s a touchy subject, and we don’t want to go there and open that wound that needs to be addressed.”


She also said that she believes that the more sexual abuse is spoken about, the more it can be prevented.


The panel on March 13 opened with a keynote address “Celibacy, purity and holiness: Challenging the sexual doctrine of the Catholic Church” given by Dr. Teresa Delgado, professor of Religious Studies.


This was followed by another speech addressing the current understanding of sexual abuse. The keynote was titled “The Sex Abuse Crisis & the Church: A predatory culture and silent victims. What have we learned?” given by Dr. Cathryn Lavery, professor of Criminal Justice.


Lastly, the event ended with a panel titled, “How do we heal?” The panelists were Br. Kevin Griffith;Mary McKenna, a licensed clinical social worker from Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests; and Dr. Alison Rivers, a psychologist from the Iona College Counseling Center.


The event was intended to bring awareness to the issue of sexual abuse and discuss preventive measures.


“I think beyond the Catholic Church, this is a major issue in this country,” Dr. Robyn Brown-Manning, an adjunct professor in the Social Work department, said. “The more exposure it gets, the more opportunity we have to really address it from a preventive standpoint.”