U Of S Moves Forward, Decisively

August 22, 2018

As a 2,000-year-old institution, the Catholic Church often moves at a glacial pace. It has a different perspective of time than most of modern society because of that long history across millennia, and it is deferential to its own traditions, geared to preservation rather than to change. Universities do not have the luxury of time. Their business is the future even though they have their own histories and traditions. So it is that the University of Scranton, a Jesuit institution, has moved quickly, decisively and correctly in response to the statewide investigative grand jury report detailing the sexual abuse of children across seven decades in six Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses, including Scranton. That abuse clearly was accommodated and exacerbated by many bishops who sheltered rather than exposed abusers. Although the University of Scranton is not a diocesan institution, it has honored several Scranton bishops with honorary degrees and by naming campus buildings for them. The grand jury report implicated three Scranton bishops — Jerome D. Hannan, J. Carroll McCormick and James C. Timlin — in covering up priests’ sexual abuse of children. Monday, U of S President the Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., consulted with representatives of the faculty, administration, alumni and student body, and brought their recommendation to the board of trustees that the university rescind the honorary degrees and rename the buildings. The board voted unanimously to do so. McCormick Hall will be renamed for St. Mary of the Cross MacKillop, an Australian nun. She was excommunicated for insubordination after a series of conflicts with church hierarchy, including over her exposure of sexual abuse of children by a priest. She later was reinstated. St. Mary of the Cross died in 1909, demonstrating how long the church has failed to resolve one of its most grievous problems. The university clearly has decided to move forward. Other Catholic institutions in the region should join it in setting a new tone.

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