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Seminary Professor’s White Paper Published by Notre Dame, Featured in Crux

Professor Justin AndersonProfessor Justin Anderson, chair of Moral Theology at Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology, has co-authored a report and proposal that seeks to better prepare priests and seminarians to minister to abuse survivors using principles of trauma-informed care. The report was published by Notre Dame University through its McGrath Institute for Church Life and recently highlighted  by the well-known, global Catholic media outlet, Crux. The feature article in Crux is entitled "ND program aims to help priests, seminarians minister to abuse survivors."

Professor Anderson is a member of the Academy of Catholic Theology and the American Catholic Philosophical Association. In 2020, he published Virtue and Grace in the Theology of Thomas Aquinas (Cambridge University Press). In 2021, he was selected as Seton Hall University Researcher of the Year.

The white paper, "Fully Equipped for Every Good Work: A Proposal of Twelve Core Competencies in Ministering to Survivors of Sexual Abuse for Seminary Formation Programs," was co-authored by Anderson along with Professor Timothy Lock, director of Psychological Services at Saint Joseph’s Seminary and College and Father Thomas Berg, a visiting scholar at Notre Dame University’s McGrath Institute for Church Life.

In publishing the report and proposal, Notre Dame notes in its release that:

Formation in recent decades has appropriately focused on more effective screening of candidates, and equipping future priests to assure the establishment of safe environments for children. Where formation was found to be lacking was in equipping future priests to accompany and be agents of healing for victim-survivors of abuse.

And, that:

‘In this whitepaper, we hope to offer concrete proficiencies by which future ministers of the Gospel can move out to act as agents of healing for those having suffered from the wounds of sexual abuse, including sexual abuse committed by clergy,’ said Justin M. Anderson, Ph.D., co-author of the whitepaper.

The report offers a review of the current state of priestly formation in the face of clergy sexual abuse; recent developments in trauma-informed pastoral care; proposed competencies to minister to victims of clergy sexual abuse; and suggestions on how to apply these competencies within existing seminary programs.

“This white paper and its proposals can be vital tools for equipping our priests and seminarians to care for, accompany, and assist in the healing process those who have suffered abuse," said Monsignor Gerard McCarren, S.T.D., Rector and Dean of Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology. "Dr. Justin Anderson and his co-authors have produced a comprehensive work that brings their vast knowledge of ethics and pastoral ministry to such a vital need in the Church's mission."

The Crux article details the "Twelve Core Competencies" featured in the proposal and highlights the extensive consultative process with "mental health professionals who specialize in care for those suffering from trauma, professionals who offer psychological services and growth counseling to seminarians, other seminary formators, survivors of abuse, seminarians, and clergy" by which they were derived.

In the Crux article, Father Thomas Berg stated:

The present whitepaper is very much a work in progress; it can serve as the basis for an ongoing and very important conversation about how to best prepare clergy for this delicate ministry, and especially how to best incorporate trauma-informed pastoral care into seminary formation programs and programs of ongoing priestly formation.

Crux reports that "The next step, according to Berg and John Cavdini, director of the McGrath Institute, is to get the report in the hands of U.S. seminary rectors and bishops, and then solicit seminaries to publicly sign on to ensure a commitment."

Categories: Faith and Service

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