University to Launch Study of Church Crisis

Program will draw on BC scholars to explore issues and challenges facing Catholicism

By Jack Dunn
Director of Public Affairs

University President William P. Leahy, SJ, has announced plans for a "special academic focus" at Boston College over the next two years to examine issues relating to the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.

The program, which will be titled "The Church in the 21st Century," will combine BC's educational and theological resources with other leading Catholic experts to provide a public forum for discussing the critical issues affecting the Catholic community.

"News stories in recent months have left many Catholics angry and confused, feeling betrayed, and asking serious questions about the meaning of their faith as well as their relationship to the hierarchy and the Church," said Fr. Leahy, "I think it will be valuable for Catholics to engage in a process of prayer and reflection, but also to have serious dialogue about significant issues facing them and the Church."

Among these, said Fr. Leahy, are the Church's moral and ethical teachings; the role of lay men and women, priests, and bishops in the Catholic community; and "the challenges facing Catholics in living their faith in our time."

Fr. Leahy will appoint an advisory committee of BC faculty, administrators, students, and alumni to direct the effort, that will include public lectures at Boston College and in other parts of the country and seminars for the campus community, alumni and the general public. Other elements will include preparation of "issue papers" for scholars and the public and the development of new undergraduate and graduate courses concerning ecclesiology, evangelization, and sexuality.

These programs will involve scholars from Boston College's Theology Department, Center for Ignatian Spirituality, Institute for Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry, Jesuit Institute and other institutions as well as members of the Catholic Church hierarchy.

"One of our goals," said Fr. Leahy, "is to increase understanding of the intellectual and moral foundations of Catholicism, offer various perspectives on issues facing Catholics today, and elicit the views of laity, priests, and bishops. We believe that this crisis can be an opportunity for renewal and revitalization, and Boston College has the resources to play a significant role in directing this effort.

"The Church has been deeply wounded by this scandal, and healing requires not only work of the heart but work of the mind. It is a responsibility of the Catholic university to help the Church and the laity understand the complex issues they face and to learn from one another. Boston College can be a meeting place and an intellectual resource for those conversations."


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