'Seventy Times Seven': Abuse, Exclusion, and Forgiving the Church

Blue Hour. St. Peter Basilica in the Vatican of Rome Italy

James Bretzke, S.J., 
John Carroll University

James Carroll

Jeannine Hill Fletcher
Fordham University

Laurel Marshall Potter
Boston College

Date: Monday, September 20, 2021
Time: 5:30 - 7pm
Location: Murray Room 426, Yawkey Way

RSVP Requested



Nearly 20 years after the publication of The Boston Globe's groundbreaking Spotlight report on the clergy sex abuse cover up, the Catholic Church continues to pay out large settlements, survivors continue to struggle toward healing, and claims of abuse, clericalism, and sexism continue to be leveled at the church. With sins so heinous and numerous, can Christians heed the command of Jesus to forgive the church not just seven times, but "seventy times seven"? If forgiveness is possible, what are its criteria? If it is not, what are the barriers? Join Fr. James Bretzke, S.J. (John Carroll University), James Carroll (author and former priest), Jeannine Hill Fletcher (Fordham University), and Laurel Marshall Potter (Boston College) for an insightful, if difficult, discussion of institutional challenges, proposed changes, and the possibility--or not--of forgiving the Catholic Church.

Speakers Bios

James Bretzke, S.J.

Rev. James T. Bretzke, S.J., is professor of theology at the Jesuit John Carroll University in suburbanCleveland, Ohio. Prior to coming to John Carroll in 2019 he taught for a decade each in the two graduate theology centers run by the Society of Jesus in the United States, the Jesuit School of Theology-at-Berkeley and the School of Theology & Ministry at Boston College. He also has served as Theology & Religious Studies Chair at the University of San Francisco and has taught at several other Jesuit schoolsaround the world, including the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome where he did his doctorate doneunder Jacques Dupuis, S.J. He is also a frequent “go-to” person for the media on a range of topics relatedto the Church in the United States and the world.He is the author of over 90 scholarly articles and reviews, and 9 books, including A Morally ComplexWorld: Engaging Contemporary Moral Theology (Liturgical Press, 2004), Consecrated Phrases: A LatinTheological Dictionary (Liturgical Press, 3rd
ed. 2013) and A Handbook of Moral Terms (Georgetown U.Press, 2013). He is currently working on a book dealing with a new moral methodology called the MoralTriangle to analyze contested contemporary ethical issues.

James Carroll headshot

James Carroll is the author of twelve novels, and eight works of non-fiction, including most recently The Truth at the Heart of the Lie: How the Catholic Church Lost its Soul. For twenty-three years, he wrote an oped column for The Boston Globe, and his work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and other publications. A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, he has received the National Book Award, the PEN Galbraith Award, and the Scripps Howard Award. He lives in Boston with his wife, the writer Alexandra Marshall. 

Jeannine Hill Fletcher headshot

Jeannine Hill Fletcher is a constructive theologian whose research is at the intersection of Christian systematic theology and issues of diversity (including gender, race and religious diversity). She is the author of three books that examine the intersectional realities of religious diversity including her most recent, The Sin of White Supremacy: Christianity, Racism and Religious Diversity in America (Orbis, 2017). Other titles include Monopoly on Salvation? A Feminist Approach to Religious Pluralism and Motherhood as Metaphor: Engendering Interreligious Dialogue. She is a professor of theology at Fordham University, Bronx NY, and board member of the grassroots social justice organization, the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, an inter-generational, multi-racial, multi-religious group organizing to address social justice issues in New York City and beyond.

Laurel Marshall Potter headshot

Laurel Marshall Potter is a Ph.D. candidate in Systematic and Comparative Theology at Boston College, with interests including decolonial thought and praxis, Latin American liberation theologies, and digital scholarship. Her most recent work can be found in the NACLA Report and in the collection Valuing Lives, Healing Earth from the European Society for Women in Theological Research. Laurel's dissertation will explore the Mesoamerican reception of Sacrosanctum Concilium and the eucharistic celebrations of ecclesial base communities in that region today.

Read More

Bretzke, James. “Conscience and Veritatis splendor in the Church Today.” Studia Moralia 55, no. 2 (2017): 271-295.

__________. “Responsum ad Dubia: Harmonizing Veritatis splendor and Amoris laetitia through a Conscience-Informed Casuistry.” Journal of Catholic Social Thought 15, no. 1 (Winter 2018): 211-222.

Carroll, James. “Abolish the Priesthood.” The Atlantic (June 2019). https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/06/to-save-the-church-dismantle-the-priesthood/588073/.

__________. Christ Actually: The Son of God for the Secular Age. New York: Viking, 2014.

__________. The Truth at the Heart of the Lie: How the Catholic Church Lost its Soul. New York: Random House, 2021.

__________. Toward a New Catholic Church: The Promise of Reform. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2002.

Hill Fletcher, Jeannine. The Sin of White Supremacy: Christianity, Racism and Religious Diversity in America. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2017.

“Warrants for Reconstruction: Christian Hegemony, White Supremacy.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 51, no. 1 (Winter 2016): 54-79.

Potter, Laurel Marshall. “Building a Church of the Poor.” NACLA Report on the Americas 52, no. 4 (2020): 362-366. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10714839.2020.1840154.


In the News


In her recent column in the Globe, Joan Vennachi says that she's of the opinion that the Catholic Church, under its present leadership, will not be able to put the sex abuse scandal behind it. And although the former cardinal-archbishop of Washington, D.C., Theodore McCarrick was defrocked and is frequently gestured toward as the face of the new wave of accountability, she cites BishopAccountability.org codirector Anne Barrett Doyle, who points to the other 45 accused bishops who haven't been. For her, McCarrick "is an outlier."

Fr. Massa introduces panel

Fr. Massa welcomes everyone - Photo Credit: Chris Soldt, MTS

Panelists Hill Fletcher and Bretzke with convener Karanovich

(L to R) Zac Karanovich (convener), Jeannine Hill Fletcher, and Fr. James Bretzke - Photo Credit: Chris Soldt, MTS

Potter and Carroll on panel

(L to R) Laurel Marshall Potter and James Carroll Photo Credit: Chris Soldt, MTS

wide view of panel

Audience view of the panel - Photo Credit: Chris Soldt, MTS

Potter and Carroll

(L to R): Potter and Carroll