“Sexual Harassment and Catholic Seminary Culture” Report from the McGrath Institute and CARA

Catholic Seminary Culture

Last September, the University released groundbreaking research detailing the impact of sexual harassment, abuse, or misconduct in American Catholic seminaries. The report, a collaboration between Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), a nonprofit research center affiliated with Georgetown University, is the first-of-its-kind sociology survey of seminarians and surveyed 149 seminaries or houses of formation, and 2,375 individual seminarians.

Of the 65 percent who responded, six percent said they had experienced some sort of sexual harassment, abuse, or misconduct, while 90 percent reported none and four percent were unsure. Of those who affirmed or were unsure, 80 percent indicated a fellow student as the perpetrator, 20 percent said it was a seminary authority, and 16 percent accused a Church authority. Overall, 84 percent felt any concerns or reports of harassment were taken seriously by their administration. There was also an opportunity for respondents to offer recommendations for preventing and addressing the crisis.

John Cavadini, the director of the McGrath Institute and a Notre Dame professor of theology, said the study, “Sexual Harassment and Catholic Seminary Culture,” was proposed after the allegations that laicized Theodore McCarrick groomed his victims during their time in the seminary.

“As a service to the current and future Church, we wanted to try to get some objective data on how prevalent (or not) sexual abuse and harassment might be at seminaries,” Cavadini said. “In approaching this task, our interest was to give seminarians a voice in a context in which they did not have to fear reprisal, and so we emphasized anonymity.”

The study also parallels the theme of the 2019-20 Forum, “‘Rebuild My Church’: Crisis and Response.” The results to the study were announced concurrently with Forum events.

Father Jenkins announced in 2018 that the University would launch a series of initiatives to address the scandal. One such proposal was $1 million in funding for faculty research which assessed the crisis.