2021 Round Up and Looking Forward to 2022

‘Tis the season of roundups and “Best of”s and, well, bragging, so I would be remiss if The Catholic Project (TCP) missed out. As the COVID-19 pandemic continued to curtail gatherings and necessitate changes to plans, TCP continued to bring people together, albeit virtually, and began to shift focus to revival and renewal in the Church.

At the very end of  2020, we received the news that
Crisis: Clergy Abuse in the Catholic Church was named by The Atlantic one of the Top 50 podcasts of 2020. This led to greater visibility for the podcast and, so far, over four times the number of downloads that we had set as our goal. Our team is immensely proud of the podcast and its success.

In February of 2021, TCP hosted an event for bishops and their staffs on diocesan bankruptcy, moderated by Bishop Deeley and featuring the foremost expert on the subject, Marie Reilly of Penn State Law. Prof. Reilly gave bishops an overview of the process and terms, and attorney Brian Wenger offered practical advice. For participants only, Archbishop Hebda shared more personal reflections from his experience at the Archdiocese of St. Paul – Minneapolis.

In April of 2021, TCP co-sponsored an international symposium—also online—with Harvard University’s Human Flourishing Program and the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, among others. This three-day event,
Faith and Flourishing: Strategies for Preventing and Healing Child Sexual Abuse, featured on-demand video presentations from experts from around the world (23 countries!) as well as live discussion sessions for participants according to time zone and language. This was an interfaith event, including people from at least seven faith traditions (with Christianity as one tradition) and there was significant Catholic participation, including from clergy abuse survivors. Spearheaded by Jennifer Wortham, this online event was to promote the establishment of a world day for raising awareness about child sexual abuse.

Also in April 2021, TCP hosted an online conversation among three victim assistance coordinators from Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. respectively. This edifying conversation brought to light the tremendous work being done by qualified professionals for sexual abuse survivors around the country. Particularly noteworthy sections for me were when Heather Banis shared the reaction of a priest in Boston in 2002; when Tom Tharayil spoke about how victim-survivors make the best leaders for this ministry; and when Courtney Chase emphasized that victim-survivors are not alone. I had personal reason in 2021 to contact a victim assistance coordinator due to a family situation, and was relieved to find a compassionate and professional ear.

In May 2021, TCP hosted yet another virtual event, this time on the second anniversary of Vos estis lux mundi, the Vatican’s move toward bishops’ accountability. This event featured canonists Bishop Thomas Paprocki, Msgr. Bob Oliver, Rev. John Beal, and Susan Mulheron looking at the document itself and how it has been implemented in the two years since its promulgation. There were also suggestions about how to strengthen the process moving forward.

During the summer months of 2021, TCP completed development of the courses for the online Certificate in Child Protection and Safe Environments. These courses were developed in partnership with a professional web-based course developer so that they are fully asynchronous and able to work into anyone’s schedule. Attending in person, graduate student Melissa Buttner shared with us her experience in the program. In August 2021, TCP welcomed visiting scholar
Paulina Guzik from Poland. Paulina’s research into best practices for communications in the midst of a sexual abuse crisis in the Church will be important not only to the bishops of Poland, but to all the faithful around the world as this issue arises.

In November 2021, we teamed up with CARA to survey the nation’s bishops as a prelude to our National Survey of American Priests. Preparing for that large-scale survey, which will be conducted by Gallup beginning in early 2022, preliminary surveys were sent to a small sample of diocesan priests. Also in November, in collaboration again with Jennifer Wortham of the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University, TCP helped to gather bishops and other faith leaders for a quiet, peaceful morning walk with victim-survivors in Baltimore during the USCCB General Assembly. This event took place at sunrise on the final day of the assembly, November 18th, which is the day that advocates are hoping the UN will recognize as the International Day for Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Prevention, Healing, and Justice.

Finally, in December 2021 TCP worked to plan the listening sessions and other events to be held at the university in the spring semester to join the synodal process, Journeying Together: Communion, Participation, Mission. The kick-off for this will be held on January 12, when Stephen White will moderate a conversation with the papal nuncio, Archbishop Christoph Pierre and University President John Garvey. Further plans will be announced at that time.

Thank you for your support for The Catholic Project and please, stay in touch!

Photo by Cristian Escobar on Unsplash