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Seminarians Report Experiencing Sexual Abuse, Harassment

Some students of Catholic seminaries experience sexual harassment, abuse or misconduct, a new “Sexual Harassment and Catholic Seminary Culture” report revealed.

The University of Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life researchers surveyed 2,375 seminarians and found 6 percent of students who reported experiencing sexual abuse and harassment, while 4 percent also reported experiencing sexual misconduct but were not sure.

Majority of those who experienced sexual misconduct identified a fellow seminary student as the perpetrator, while another 36 percent linked seminary officials or a Church authority to sexual abuse and harassment.

“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,” said John C. Cavadini, professor of theology and director of the McGrath Institute.

“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.”

Overall, 90 percent of Catholic seminarians studying to serve as diocesan priests and as religious priests or brothers didn’t report experiencing any form of sexual misconduct.

About 17 percent of seminarians at their seminary indicated a little talk about the sexual misconduct involving seminarians, faculty, administrators, formators, or others living and/or working there. If there is any report of sexual misconduct, 84 percent of seminarians said that the administration and faculty of their seminary or house of formation take such issues very seriously.

The report also made recommendations for preventing and addressing sexual misconduct which includes having better polices in place that deals with such kind of behavior, conducting better screening of seminary candidates and having an anonymous system of reporting such incidents.

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