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October 5, 2022

Neglected Voices in the Clergy Sexual Abuse Crisis

Showing the Neglected Voices in the Clergy Sexual Abuse Crisis Video

The Catholic clergy sexual abuse crisis is an ongoing wound that has caused immense anguish and pain for abuse survivors and their families and friends, as well as the entire Catholic community. Church leaders have taken steps to respond, but much more remains to be done to change the culture of clericalism that allows abuse and its cover-up to occur, and to increase accountability and transparency so that such grave crimes do not occur again.

Too often conversations about the abuse crisis neglect the voices of those within Native, Latino, and Black communities, even as members of those communities suffer disproportionately from abuse. The perspectives of Native, Latino, and Black Catholics can strengthen our understanding of how clergy abuse and its cover-up happens, and how we can work together more effectively to strengthen protections for vulnerable people and communities and take steps towards justice and healing. 

The Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University brought together five remarkable leaders to explore questions such as:

  • What are the impacts—human, spiritual, moral, and institutional—of clergy sex abuse in Native, Latino, and Black communities? 

  • Why has clergy sex abuse in these communities drawn less attention and less of a response? 

  • Why do members of marginalized communities suffer particularly from those who abuse children and vulnerable adults, and those who cover up such abuse?

  • What institutional, cultural, and personal failures led Church leaders to perpetrate and cover up sexual abuse, particularly in these communities? How can we understand, confront, and overcome our history here?

  • What can the broader Catholic Church learn from survivors of clergy sexual abuse in marginalized communities, and how can Church leaders raise up such voices?

  • What lessons and future directions can lay Catholics and others take away from efforts to confront the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church? Bishops? The Vatican?

  • How can we work together to overcome clericalism and assure greater transparency, accountability, renewal, and reform in the Catholic Church? 

Kim Daniels, co-director of the Initiative, member of the Vatican Dicastery for Communication, and former spokesperson for the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, moderated the conversation.


View a list of articles, videos, and other resources for this dialogue.

This dialogue was the twelfth gathering on the clergy sexual abuse crisis organized by the Initiative. Other gatherings are available online. This dialogue was part of and supported by the Taking Responsibility Initiative coordinated by Fordham University.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Frozemint


Maka Black Elk

Maka Black Elk

Maka Black Elk is the executive director for Truth and Healing at Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, a former Indian boarding school. A descendant of boarding school survivors, he advocates for truth and healing in Catholic ministries and schools serving Indigenous peoples.

Elsie Boudreau

Elsie Boudreau

Elsie Boudreau is a proud Yup’ik Eskimo from the village of St. Mary's, Alaska, and a survivor of childhood clergy abuse.

Fr. Bryan Massingale

Fr. Bryan Massingale

Fr. Bryan Massingale is the James and Nancy Buckman Professor of Theological and Social Ethics at Fordham University and the author of Racial Justice and the Catholic Church (2010). He is the 2022 recipient of the Faith Doing Justice Award from Ignatian Solidarity Network.

Deacon Bernie Nojadera

Deacon Bernie Nojadera

Deacon Bernie Nojadera is the executive director of the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the former director of the Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults in the Diocese of San Jose, California.

Dr. Deborah Rodriguez

Dr. Deborah Rodriguez

Dr. Deborah Rodriguez is a general pediatrician with specialty training in trauma-informed care. She cares for both adolescent and adult survivors of abuse, violence, and trauma. Dr. Rodriguez is a survivor of childhood clergy abuse, and she works to help provide direct ministry to all survivors of abuse including human trafficking survivors.