Over the past year, since the publication of the Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing sexual abuses committed by over 300 Catholic clergy during a 70-year period, Georgetown has taken steps to engage with the challenges facing the Catholic Church and its response to the ongoing sexual abuse crisis, bringing expertise from across campuses and disciplines into dialogue about this challenging issue.
This year, Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia invited Rev. Gerard McGlone, S.J., to join the Berkley Center as a senior research fellow beginning in May 2019.
Over the course of his career, Fr. McGlone has made incalculable contributions to our understanding of what is required us, in the most important work we can be engaged—the protection of the most vulnerable. We are deeply grateful to him for taking on this new role within our community and for the contributions he will make as we seek to respond to the challenges of this moment.
McGlone is a former Georgetown assistant professor of psychiatry who most recently worked as associate director for protection of minors on behalf of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men. As part of the Berkley Center, he will study and write on the sexual abuse crisis.
“We are thrilled to have a scholar of Fr. McGlone's caliber joining us at the Berkley Center,” said Berkley Center Director Shaun Casey. “His vast clinical and pastoral experience enhances our ability to contribute to solving global problems.”
John Carr, who has worked to address the clergy sexual abuse crisis as director of Georgetown’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, also welcomes the appointment.
“Fr. McGlone brings unique expertise and experience, knowledge and leadership, commitment and courage to the urgent task of addressing the clergy sexual abuse crisis. A survivor of abuse, he has cared for victims, treated perpetrators, and challenged the ecclesial culture that contributed to the crisis. Georgetown and the Berkley Center are blessed to have him working with us to make things right.”
The Path to the Crisis
Preventing sexual abuse is core to McGlone's identity as a person and as a Jesuit, and he is quite frank that this identity is in many ways a result of his own experience of sexual abuse. As he puts it, "I was abused by a Jesuit in high school and then throughout my formation. So I had to do what I think most people today in the Church and in any faith community have to do: I had to attempt to make sense of the trauma."
Initially, McGlone did not believe that sexual abuse would be core to his path. But in 1992, the first reports of Catholic priests abusing children surfaced just as he was pursuing a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. He decided to focus on that topic for his research and eventually produced a dissertation comparing sexually abusing and non-abusing Catholic clergy, finishing the topic and graduating in 2001.
On January 6, 2002, the Boston Globe published its Spotlight story chronicling the history of sexual abuse and cover-up by Catholic clergy in Boston. Since that time, McGlone has been intimately involved in the development of the Church's response to the crisis, often as a critic.
"My priestly goal," he says, "is to reclaim the Church, faith, and vocation that I know and love. This is not dependent upon any man—my abuser, my religious superiors, any bishops of any dioceses, or the past or current occupant of the Chair of St. Peter."
Practicing as a Psychologist
Between 2002 and his decision to join the Berkley Center, McGlone became a leading authority on the problem of clerical sexual abuse. He has served as an assistant professor of psychiatry in Georgetown University's School of Medicine and chief psychologist and director of counseling services at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. His other appointments have included tenures as the associate director for protection of minors for the Conference of Major Superiors of Men and as executive director for several major treatment centers within the United States - Saint John Vianney Center and Guest House, Inc.
McGlone recently co-authored two award-winning books: To Be One in Christ: Intercultural Formation and Ministry (2015), a text on the challenges and opportunities in intercultural screening, assessment, and formation for Catholic priests. He also wrote extensively about better screening and assessment and the need to educate men in formation about healthy sexuality in his 2012 book The Inner Life of Priests. In that book, he discussed the structures that fail to provide clergy the tools they need to understand their own sexuality:
"They were often 'schooled' not to talk about, not to deal with, anything like sexuality because if you did, you were seen as deficient, weird, or sexually obsessed."
As McGlone's scholarship has grown, so has the reach of his work. In recent years, he has been quoted in articles in various national papers, including the San Diego Union Tribune, America, and the National Catholic Reporter. He has become an increasingly common voice at conferences and panels dedicated to addressing the sexual abuse crisis, including several at Georgetown. Kim Daniels, associate director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life and participant in the Georgetown events, remarked,
“Last fall Fr. McGlone was a key participant in our Dahlgren Dialogue on the clergy sexual abuse crisis, and his thoughtful perspective, wide-ranging experience, and willingness to ask challenging questions were key to its success. Fr. McGlone also made insightful contributions to our April 2019 conference on the legal aspects of these issues, as well as our National Leadership Convening on the abuse crisis this June. We’re looking forward to the chance to work even more closely with him on this critical issue."
Looking to the Future at Georgetown
McGlone will continue to research the sexual abuse crisis and methods for preventing future abuse while at the Berkley Center as a senior research fellow, where he will provide a critical perspective on the issue.
Berkley Center Managing Director Michael Kessler noted that "the clergy sexual abuse crisis cuts to the core of the Church's global legitimacy, and, thus, the Berkley Center welcomes Fr. McGlone's leadership on this severe problem. He is engaged in cutting-edge work both to understand the mechanisms of the problem and to offer effective models for congregations and church bodies to implement to prevent further crises."
McGlone views his new position as a means to address the crisis in several different ways: first to collaborate with existing efforts here at Georgetown; second, to develop a new initiative that will attempt to address and record the stories of survivors and to provide new research on the effects of abuse on clerical survivors; third, to oversee a credentialing and certification training program designed to train psychologists who screen candidates for seminaries and religious life; fourth, to collaborate with an Institute for Church Life project at the University of Notre Dame that seeks to produce critical data on the prevalence and incidence of harassment in religious and diocesan formation programs; and finally, to develop a healthy dioceses and communities initiative, which would use the latest research in medicine, psychology, spirituality, and sociology to help foster stronger religious communities, especially in the wake of abuse. The premise of this research is simple: creating healthy communities is the best form of prevention.
These are very ambitious goals, and McGlone is aware of it. But he is also optimistic about the reach he can achieve as part of the Berkley Center.
The Berkley Center has been able to give me a forum to reach local, national, and international audiences that are in desperate need of research, education, and prevention programming. We need to help those areas of the world that do not have our resources.