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Sin against the innocents: Sexual abuse by priests and the role of the Catholic Church

SANTA CLARA, Calif.—May 4, 2004 -- Leading experts in the area of clergy sexual abuse will come to Santa Clara University on May 14, 2004 for a conference on the lessons learned from the sex abuse crisis in the church. The day-long conference titled, “Sin against the innocents: Sexual abuse by priests and the role of the Catholic Church,” will also launch a book by the same name. The multidisciplinary book focuses on sexual abuse by priests and the Roman Catholic Church with chapters from the perspectives of psychology, sociology, history, religious studies, law, ethics, journalism, and abuse victims.

To request a press pass to the event, request an interview with a speaker or attend the press conference, please contact SCU media relations at 408-554-5125

The conference at SCU’s Benson Memorial Center, will feature thought provoking dialogue among  leading experts. More than 200 people are expected to attend the event.

“Attendees will have an opportunity to listen to and question some of the foremost thinkers and experts on clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church,” said Thomas Plante, professor of psychology at SCU, a national expert in the field of clergy sex abuse, and editor of the book. “The purpose of the conference and book is to bring together some of the best minds in the world to shed light on the problem of clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. It is a complex issue with few simple and straightforward answers. This conference will provide thoughtful and reasoned reflection by professionals who are involved with various aspects of the problem. Panel presentations will address issues of ethics, church governance, and sexuality,” Plante said.

Plante was editor of an earlier 1999 book on clergy sex abuse –‘Bless me Father for I have Sinned: Perspectives on Sexual Abuse Committed by Roman Catholic Priests.’ “Santa Clara University is one of the leading universities in the country working to provide a reflective environment to discuss the clergy sexual abuse problem,” Plante said.

Some of the conference participants are:

  •     Leon Panetta, director of the Panetta Institute: former member of Congress; former chief of staff of the Clinton White House, and member of the U.S. Conference of Bishops’ committee on child sexual abuse by clergy.
  •     Kathleen McChesney, former third highest ranking official with the FBI: now executive director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection of the Unites States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
  •     Michael Rezendes, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist from the Boston Globe Spotlight Team, which in Jan. 2002 broke the clergy abuse story.
  •     Mary Raftery, senior producer/director for RTE (Irish National TV): Producer of “States of Fear,” an award-winning series on child abuse in the Industrial School System in Ireland.
  •     David Clohessy, executive director of SNAP (a national clergy abuse victims group),
  •     Thomas Doyle, O.P., canon lawyer who has worked with dioceses in developing policies and procedures for dealing with child sexual abuse.
  •    Thomas Rausch, S.J., the T. Marie Chilton Professor of Catholic Theology at Loyola Marymount University
  •    Donna Markham, Adrian Dominican sister, clinical psychologist, special assistant to the president at Georgetown University, and president of the Southdown Institute.
  •    Leslie Lothstein, director of psychology at the Institute of Living/Hartford Hospital
  •    John Gonsiorek, psychologist and faculty member at the Minnesota School of Professional Psychology: editor of The Breach of Trust: Sexual Exploitation by Health Care Professionals and Clergy
  •    A.W. Richard Sipe, lay mental health professional and author of Sex, Priests, and Power.
  •    Thomas G. Plante, professor of psychology at Santa Clara University; adjunct clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Stanford University; and editor of Bless Me Father for I Have Sinned: Perspectives on Sexual Abuse Committed by Roman Catholic Priests..
  •  William C. Spohn, director of Santa Clara University’s Bannan Center for Jesuit Education; Augustin Cardinal Bea, S.J. Distinguished Professor of Theology; professor of Christian ethics, Department of Religious Studies.
  • Kirk Hanson, professor and executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, Santa Clara University.
  • Gerald Coleman S.S., president and rector of St. Patrick Seminary and priest in Menlo Park, Calif...
  • Nannette deFuentes, Los Angeles area psychologist and member of several Church commissions and review boards on clergy child sexual abuse.
  • J.A. Loftus, S.J., Jesuit psychologist and former President of Regis College, University of Toronto, and author of the largest empirical study on clergy sexual abuse.
  • Sonny Manuel, S.J., vice provost, Santa Clara University, dean, School of Education, Counseling, Psychology, and Pastoral Ministries
  • Bernard V. Nojadera, director, Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults, Diocese of San Jose.
  • Keri Procunier McLain, Ph.D. CEO of YMCA, Santa Clara County
  • Patrick LaBelle, O.P., pastor at St. Dominic’s Catholic Community at Stanford University.
  • Adele Bihn, chair of the Pastoral Outreach Committee for the Diocese of San Jose to the survivor/victims of clergy sexual abuse
  • Barbara Charlesworth Gelpi, emerita professor of English at Stanford University;

The conference is sponsored by the Bannan Center for Jesuit Education and the President's Office at Santa Clara University. For more information about the press conference, or to schedule interviews, call Santa Clara University Media Relations, 408-554-5125, or email

About the Bannan Center for Jesuit Education

The Bannan Center for Jesuit Education, founded in 1982, is an educational enterprise at Santa Clara University that assists the University in keeping its Catholic and Jesuit character at the center of the educational enterprise. The Center offers faculty, staff, students, and friends opportunities to explore the implications of Ignatian and Jesuit spirituality and mission in the ongoing life of the contemporary University.

About Santa Clara University

Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located in California’s Silicon Valley, offers its 8,060 students’ rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, plus master’s and law degrees. Distinguished nationally by the third-highest graduation rate among all U.S. masters’ universities, California’s oldest higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. More information is online at



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