Rape, manipulation, and loss of faith at 'faithful' Catholic colleges
They're acting as Christ, exposing their wounds so that we may believe.
When I was seventeen, I bought myself a copy of The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College. The guide lists Catholic colleges where students can expect to receive a “faithful Catholic education.” It aims “to show students where they can learn and grow in a genuine Catholic environment without the nonsense that has overtaken even some of the most well-known Catholic universities.” I wanted a strong Catholic education that would deepen my faith and further integrate it with my intellectual life. I told my parents that I planned to apply to the Franciscan University of Steubenville.
My mother responded, “University of Stupidville? That’s the name of the school???”
“No, mom,” I said. “Stew-ben-ville!!!”
Thomas Aquinas College was also a top choice, since I wanted a serious Catholic liberal arts program. (Though people had told me, “All their professors are Notre Dame grads, so you should just go there.”) The University of Dallas, my father's alma mater, known for its strong core curriculum, also loomed large. When I received my acceptance to UD, I quickly submitted my housing deposit.
I was most certainly not going to attend Notre Dame, and I told my parents this. The Newman Guide said that Notre Dame had some key Catholic professors and initiatives but that, as a whole, the University was gradually losing its Catholic identity. Like many other Catholic schools, the guide insisted, Notre Dame was increasingly becoming the sort of school where one was likely to experience a loss or diminishment of Catholic faith. The Guide warned about things like The Vagina Monologues on campus.
Nonetheless, I somehow ended up at Notre Dame. To a certain extent, I found the Newman Guide to be correct (though I still don't know whether the Vagina Monologues were performed during my time there). I struggled at Notre Dame to find an integrated Catholic education. I started out in the great books program, got frustrated with its lack of focus, and transitioned to majors in philosophy and classics. I had experiences that seriously harmed my faith, though not in the ways that the Guide had warned me about. Notre Dame really challenged my faith.
But over time, I've learned that most of the Newman Guide schools probably wouldn't have served me any better, at least in terms of bolstering my faith and deepening my Catholic orthodoxy. It's likely that many would have been much worse for me. As I've connected with more and more alumni of Newman Guide schools, I've heard story after story of sexual assault, rape, sexism, racism, spiritual and emotional manipulation, anti-gay prejudice, and a general lack of holistic care for the human person at an institutional level. I’ve heard stories of traumatic experiences, where harm was combined with spiritual manipulation and abuse, leading to a deep pessimism towards Catholicism and a thorough rejection of orthodox theology.
Below are more than 70 stories and reflections shared with me from graduates of "Newman Guide" schools, as well as "faithful" Catholic outreach programs at other campuses, including:
Ave Maria University
The Catholic University of America (CUA)
Christendom College (CC)
Divine Mercy University (DMU)
The Franciscan University of Steubenville (FUS)
Thomas Aquinas College (TAC)
Thomas More College
NET (National Evangelization Team)
SPO (St. Paul's Outreach)
I struggled with the question of whether to share these stories today. We’re in the midst of the Easter season, which is a season of joy. But as I reflect on these stories and what they have to offer to us, I realize that these men and women are acting as Christ. They’re coming before a community that has not always believed them, and they are exposing their wounds so that we may believe. They’re inviting us to enter into these wounds, many of which we have helped to inflict. They are telling us, “Look and see and believe and be changed.” They’re inviting us to change and renewal, even while recognizing many will still choose to not believe and to remain in the ways of death.
Reflecting on challenges and hardships is not inconsistent with the celebration of Easter. As Pope Francis shared in this year’s Urbi er Orbi message:
"Our eyes, too, are incredulous on this Easter of war. We have seen all too much blood, all too much violence. Our hearts, too, have been filled with fear and anguish, as so many of our brothers and sisters have had to lock themselves away in order to be safe from bombing. We struggle to believe that Jesus is truly risen, that he has truly triumphed over death. Could it be an illusion? A figment of our imagination?
No, it is not an illusion! Today, more than ever, we hear echoing the Easter proclamation so dear to the Christian East: 'Christ is risen! He is truly risen!' Today, more than ever, we need him, at the end of a Lent that has seemed endless. We emerged from two years of pandemic, which took a heavy toll. It was time to come out of the tunnel together, hand in hand, pooling our strengths and resources... Instead, we are showing that we do not yet have within us the spirit of Jesus but the spirit of Cain, who saw Abel not as a brother, but as a rival, and thought about how to eliminate him. We need the crucified and risen Lord so that we can believe in the victory of love, and hope for reconciliation. Today, more than ever, we need him to stand in our midst and repeat to us: 'Peace be with you!'"
It is in the hope of peace that I share these difficult stories. We as a Church are not in a place to offer many of these men and women peace. Many struggle with the ongoing turmoil of unaddressed harms, with long-term emotional and social impacts, and the continued inability of Catholic leaders to take accountability and drive change. We want peace, but peace is more than the absence of war, is more than the silence. It is a full recognition of their wounds and taking seriously what this recognition means for how we must act.
There are many ways in which these stories, these shared wounds, might change us. I hope they cause us to reframe our own memories and perceptions:
So below I am sharing the broad conversation I had with these men and women. This conversation can also be found in my Instagram highlights. It began with a discussion on maternity leave in Catholic institutions. But Franciscan University kept coming up, so I invited participants to focus on university experiences. The conversation developed into a discussion on Catholic colleges, and especially "faithful" Catholic colleges where abuse, sexual assault, manipulation, and damage to faith is rampant.
I've included those stories below, listed chronically. Please note that these stories reflect individual experiences and perspectives. Some have contrasting conclusions. But all are worth taking seriously. I won't say too much more about them. You should read them for yourself…
A prominent Catholic university only added maternity leave in the past 5 years (not sure about paternity leave). I asked mv dad (a prof there) why it took so long, the reply was "no one really thought it was necessary." Nevermind that I babysat for a PhD who returned to teaching very quickly (within a month) after giving birth to her 4th, this was almost a decade before the maternity policy was enacted - so it's not as though there were no working mothers.
But I guess it was definitely more usual for it to be the husband who was employed by the university and the wife would stay home and (frequently) homeschool. My dad would return to teach within a day or two of each of us being born.
I'm grateful that he did have a flexible schedule and was able to be around to help (or we could go see him on campus), but looking back, I wonder how it would have been different if he had been able to take time off. I know my older sisters helped a lot with me and my younger brother (I'm the 4th of 5, so i wasn't too helpful haha)
Also, after looking at the FEM Catholic report, my diocese didn't even reply 🙃 but I'd be shocked if they had any sort of policy, there's a huge culture of "work til you get married and have kids, then stay home and homeschool because that's God's will for every family"
This is definitely CUA. I know several people who work there and one of their colleagues had to use all her vacation and sick leave for maternity before they created a maternity leave. She left for Notre Dame so presumably they have a better policy.
I work for the Archdiocese of Washington (arguably one of the more progressive dioceses) and the parental leave policy only kicks in once you've worked there for a year 🤦♀️
Yes [you can share] if you blur my name so I can keep my job lol
Franciscan University is a sh*t show right now. I graduated from there with my bachelor's. And even then there were so many colors of misogyny, homophobia, transphobia.
I have single mom friends who were told, "it makes sense that men make more money here bc they have families to feed." Ohhhh. I guess her family doesnt count as a family bc she has no husband 😒
The friends I made there are incredible human beings. But we were definitely the fringe group. I have seriously complicated feelings about my time there.
And dont even get me started on the Fr. David Morrier bs. Its INSANE living in Steubenville and seeing a plethora of reactions to this. But do you know who has no real clue about what's going on? The current students. Bc if theres one thing FUS and the TORs are good at is 👏 covering 👏 👏 things up
Super interesting seeing this as someone who attended Franciscan for a year and was absolutely disgusted by the school and certain groups of people. Couldn't have said it better, the amount of judgment that lives at that school. Good to know I'm not alone in my views. I did meet my husband there and some wonderful people which I am grateful for. That being said, those are literally the only positive from attending that school. On a personal level I'd never been more depressed and further away from my faith than my year at Franciscan. I kid you not the school itself isn't even shit. Spending thousands of dollars on teachers who don't invest anything into their students. It genuinely made me question Catholicism if the majority of people who were Catholic behaved as the judgmental students and staff at Franciscan University.
I know of a surprisingly high number of college sweethearts from FUS who have gone through awful messy divorces.
Don't feel qualified enough to comment. Just witnessing a marriage breakdown from afar with the knowledge that they are FUS friends and hearing from others that most of the marriages they know that come from FUS grads have resulted in divorce is disheartening.
There's also a whole piece of that I am sure that comes from just wanting to be with someone of a shared experience (FUS, particular missionary organizations, cough NET and Saint Paul's Outreach cough) or who you got to know during a dramatic time of change and conversion and in a hyper vulnerable and religious setting. But that's a whole other conversation about relationships that you haven't even gotten to in your stories yet. But I have so many thoughts on the unhealthy
male/female friendships or views on friendships and dating and just all of it that different missionary groups or covenant communities or universities put forth. Blech.
OOOHHHH SHHIIIIT. yup. I am about to graduate from FUS and cry daily because it has given me an insane amount of trauma and pushed me further away from God and I can't wait to leave.
Man there is so many [thoughts on what drives this]. I would say a huge thing is the lack of diversity - and not just color/culture, although that is definitely an issue as well. I struggle with severe mental illness and am neurodivergent and there's no place for me here, which makes me feel like there's no place for me in the Church, period. I'm also a clerical abuse victim (before coming to Franciscan) and I had a friar tell me last year, when I attempted to reach out for some spiritual direction, that I needed to forgive myself for letting myself be abused. I was a minor when it happened!!! The culture here disgusts me, there are so many fake and/or emotionally manipulated and brainwashed people. On top of all this, the academics are absolutely horrendous unless you're a theocat or something. I could go on for pages about that. I 1000% wasted my money and cannot wait to leave.
That's honestly a cliff notes. I could go on and on. This school is truly the worst of the worst if you're not neurotypical, conventionally attractive, care about getting a good education, and able to be emotionally manipulated into thinking this bullshit they spell out.
Not the question, but I went to a super-Catholic Catholic high school that feeds Christendom College, Seton School in Manassas. I loved the high school experience and considered CUA, CC, and FUS but because of finances went to George Mason University, to the music dept. I remained extremely conservative throughout but I credit having gone to a secular university as beginning to broaden my experience of the world and being sympathetic to people I had not had much contact with inside my Catholic bubble - LGBT, Black, and basically anyone not Catholic 😂. however, it took years and years after graduating high school to make a conscious attempt to let go of those prejudices ingrained in my super Catholic upbringing (against Protestants, against Muslims, against "illegal immigrants", especially against LGBT). This I credit to my husband - Catholic, but with a more open perspective being from Europe - and my younger sister, who is lesbian.
I really believe that if I had gone to a Catholic Catholic university, would still be stuck in my extremely conservative beliefs, as I would definitely have ended up with a different guy and wildly different life.
I'm glad that slowly having to let go of harmful prejudices against other groups prepared me at least a bit to support and understand and love my sister, as her identity is rejected by our super-Catholic mother whose opinions I unquestioningly shared for the first half of my life.
Christendom grad here who has worked in ministry ever since graduating. It's been truly a wild ride. I went there wanting a private Catholic school experience after going to large public schools my whole life and being the only Catholic in a lot of spaces. I learned a lot but unpacking the trauma has been really hard. The levels of overt racism were something I had never seen and gave me so much anxiety. Just one example, I had a conversation with 4 20 year old white men once about why they couldn't say the n word. I was often told I was too sensitive and liberal because I care about social issues other than abortion. And this was before 45 was elected. I know it's gotten worse since then. I met some incredible people and wonderful friends and am grateful for the experiences but the school is so reticent to change or open itself up to others outside the white homeschooled circle.
I remain Catholic because of Jesus, CST, and the community of progressive Catholics who believe that our voices in the Church are just as important as others. But it can be really disheartening and I feel like it's gotten worse since. Sometimes I feel like there are two churches in the US. I remind myself every day that we are an Easter people!
I went to Franciscan for one year and in that year I was creepily "pursued" by a 27 year old grad student when I was a 17 year old freshman, my female roommate sexually assaulted my other female friend and instead of disciplinary action my friend had to cancel her Austria trip bc she didn't want to go with her attacker. So many people I knew who talked of their "struggles" with knowing that they were gay were dating in straight relationships.
It was a mess there
l attended Thomas More College in NH and have tons of stories to share. There was so much racism/white supremacy on campus. The student body was almost 100% white. Students were allowed to display Confederate flags on campus.
Professors taught lots of racist revisionist history about the civil war. One time in an American history class, a student argued that emancipation was a mistake. The professor sat silently and did not challenge the student at all.
Oh, and one time a guest speaker (who happens to sit on the college's board of trustees) stated that there's no such thing as marital rape and it's understandable for husbands to force themselves on their wives.
I still identify as Catholic, because I know the Church is not defined by racist white conservatives. I'm just not very strict about following all the rules anymore.
Oh, also, William Fahey (the president) was involved in a massive coverup of the sex abuse that occurred at St. Greg's Academy in Scranton PA. This occurred before I was a student at TMC, so a lot of the story is not mine to tell. But I thought it was worth mentioning!
I went to Christendom and really felt isolated and hurt by a lot of people there. If was small to the point of discomfort where everyone "knew you" without knowing you, if that makes sense, and it made it easy for a lot of preconceived judgements and stereotypes to fly around.
I felt lost and never had a place there, and remember getting "work crew" picking cigarette butts up outside one morning because I was receiving disciplinary action for breaking curfew- aka wanting to go out late off campus with my older friends, but because I was under 21 l couldn't. The modesty culture of the dress code was also hard because I felt so scrupulous for years about what to wear, and I remember getting in trouble on the way to Mass for a skirt being above my knees - I had to turn around and change. I remember the RA even said "cute skirt! But too short."
I went to Seton High School in Manassas before that, and man I'm unlearning a lotttt from that place. The teachers really messed with me (not all, but some.) There was very intense scrupulosity inducing stuff taught that I'm not even sure is Catholic teaching.
Also the history was veryyyy white/European centered- defending Crusades, defending Columbus, the Civil War was about states rights… just so much stuff I was shocked to "relearn" when I left.
I'm still Catholic but lately feel like I'm holding on by the skin of my teeth. I have friends who've come out as queer or trans & i love them, and so many Catholic people have pushed them away.
It's messed with my faith a lot. (Also I still practice NFP but, I feel like the Church's teachings on birth control have been getting harder for me as well. I still practice & believe bc of the Eucharist, but I'm struggling. haven't been to confession in probably almost a year bc I'm not sure how to confess these doubts? I also believe in the True Presence but I'm not sure if I can receive with all this going on.
So yes, i still believe, but I'm not super vigilant about converting the whole world like I was in highschool (we literally sang a song in highschool that said "an army of youth flying the banner of truth" which honestly kinda weirds me out) - I have chilled out a lot and realize its not my solo job to defend it if I'm also struggling- it's Christ's Church. He's got this.
I went to ave and did have overall a really positive experience. This was not almost ten years ago since I graduated but I met solid friends who are both balanced people on a human level and strongly committed to their Catholic faith. I do know that going there it very well may have not been the same if I wasn't a cisgender straight girl though in particular ways. Although I have to say of the conservative catholic schools as far as the trend I've also heard from grads of Steubenville around divorce and around leaving the catholic faith out of hurt I haven't seen the same strong trends from ave, at least in the groups I am part of (which certainly isn't representative!) but I will say I have heard of some moving away from their faith broadly and of course I am not always privy to the why". I feel similarly about these catholic schools that everyone elevates as I do about youth groups, honestly. People often make going to youth group the gauge for being a committed catholic as a teen.
and I don't know of anyone who attended the youth groups I went to who is still practicing. I ran a youth group as well and most youth are not practicing. To go
into these settings means we step into places of brokenness and not a guarantee and in some cases GREaT dysfunction. The biggest mistake I think we make is assuming these places are safe because they are catholic (and how I wish that was true but it is a real fantasy.)
I do agree about the initial lack of diversity when I went to ave but as majors expanded, academic opportunities grew for more than the classical degrees, and sports expanded I saw more diversity (still certainly not representative surely in ways it could be) part of this greater representation was because ave did invest in international students to a degree I didn't see other private schools doing in the catholic realm. It was telling tragically though at how the "original aves" responded to this shift in openness to people who were not catholic, people of diverse backgrounds (in a lot of ways!) and the negative connotation of threat there. That was not okay and still grinds me.
Maybe another harm though would be how few of my gay friends came out as gay until after college. I do wonder if the school had been prioritizing these students if they could have come to awareness of their sexuality sooner (in fact I am very confident that would be the case) but a lot of closeted people went through college and even after for ears in secrecy. Thankfully they started to come out years later and have felt they could open up to several fellow ave grads, but my heart still breaks at those years of silence some of them would say they didn't "think of themself as gay then" but I can't help but wonder how an environment prescribes you to not!
At ave there was the home of the mother scandal my freshman year, Which was horrific. That hurt deeply ALOT of people and I wasn't immediately involved but
had friends who had significant negative experiences and some lost faith for a time or permanently because of abuses they encountered there.
I will also say (and again maybe it's the selection of people I surrounded myself with at ave) but as I have done more sexuality work and gender work I have found my straight catholic ave friends to be much more open to learning and stretching and growing in their understandings than those from other "liberal arts" catholic schools, on average.
There are some friends from other schools who are also willing to learn and grow and admit wrongdoing and harm but the "this is what good Catholics say" mentality seems to run deep, which is such a barrier if you say things that depart from that.
It sometimes surprises me how callous some ultra-Catholics can be. I'm not a Catholic (Anglican) but I went to a Catholic secondary school (British version of high school) and the head of RE and Philosophy at my school was ultra-Catholic and was reknowned for his callousness sometimes.
The total lack of sensitivity surprised me from someone who is supposed to be a Christian. But I think to a certain extent that was the impact of the culture wars on his mentality and approach to other people. One time we had a discussion about patriarchy in class, and he claimed patriarchy has never really existed in the Uk because we had powerful queens like Elizabeth I and Victoria, totally misunderstanding what patriarchy means (whether or not it does exist). Another time he claimed that socialism and fascism were the same thing (which they blatantly aren't, and even after I had a big debate with him over it, and thought I'd convinced him otherwise, he continued to say so to other students in other...
You really wanna open a can of worms?? Ask Christendom grads about purity culture on campus.
You probably saw the stories a while back about the sexual assaults and rapes that were covered. We have good friends who went there during that period and it's all true. Simcha Fisher wrote some good articles on it, interviewing victims.
My dad is a teacher at christendom, and even though I get free tuition because of this, I do not want to go. I feel like I would be miserable and not accepted. because I am LGBTO+. left leaning, deconstructing, dating a non believer. etc.
I'm not saying its a bad college, per se, I have been to its events my whole life and have friends who go there, but its obvious that for people outside its demographic, it's not the best match. I'd say there is only 5 Black students at a time st most. Out of 500.
The town's Catholicism is cold, unwelcoming, and fearful. I really am barely Catholic because for the experience I have had growing up in Front Royal.
I can't wait to get out of here.
There is a history of sex abuse as well.
I could go on and on about Christendom, but I can see other people have brought up other issues.
The sexism at Christendom is UNREAL. They literally have a group of students that they call a debate society who debates things like if women have the same intelligent level as men.
Some professors are wonderful but some professors (usually the more celebrated ones) literally are openly sexist towards female students. I met with one of my philosophy professors after being sick for a couple weeks to see how I could make up the work and he literally told me I needed to be more like one of his male students if I wanted to get an A in his class.
Not to mention that they charge girls fines if their clothes are considered "immodest." Don't even get me started on student life and the administration all they are about is making their super conservative out of touch with reality rich donors happy. So the rules are so restrictive. Dean of student life when I was there was "quietly" let go because of a date rape scandal. Also a recent sex scandal with a professor for pedofilia and they came out with a statement in support of the professor and I saw nothing for the victim or victims family. Honestly I don't know sometimes how I'm still catholic. I still question because it's communities like this that claim to be "the most catholic" that seem to have lost the true gospel message completely.
They will never admit to being in the wrong be they could lose donors. They get all of their funding from large private donors so that they don't take federal funding and can be "more catholic" instead of under the influence of the government but they are just under the influence of these wack people.
I worked for our development office and would talk to the big name donor people and they were conspiracy theorists and just ultra ultra conservatives. Like people who are unwell. Not many students realize how much of the rules are tied to this; I saw the inside if you will
They will expel kids for smoking weed but guys who have raped girls or professors who are pediofiles are allowed.
Not to mention all the issues with racism etc etc. I can't tell you the number of students who I knew who were depressed, struggling with eating disorders etc be of how restrictive it was and questioning themselves because they weren't a "good Christendom kid".
Honestly seeing that was part of what inspired me to become a social worker bc I realized that Catholics need help just as much or more than anyone else bc of these issues
*the debate group is a cult that is sanctioned as a elitist school group and has funding and support of the university. Anyways I could go on and on but I've sent plenty lol
Which Thomas More college? The one in KY or New Hampshire? I went to the one in KY and was told that I was the worst theology major to graduate because I refused to laugh at the department chair's jokes about other students.
... It was odd. It wasn't the college on the Newman list. There were other things at TMC in the theology department (I was told by a campus minister who only stayed a year that I was a distraction to seminarians if I had no plans of entering the religious life) but nothing as bad as what I've been reading. I also teach for the diocese of Covington but don't feel comfortable with posting about that we get zero time for maternity leave unless we save our PTO. 5 days a year. You can save up to 60 days. So.. One 12 week maternity leave every 12 years. We just got a new bishop and he's making huge changes (ordained by Gregory) and I'm hopeful things will change.
Within my first two weeks of school at Benedictine, I was threatened by another student and eventually followed into a room where they pulled a knife on me. The college labeled it as "an incident" and then when I said I didn't want this person coming into my dorm building, was told by the safety & security that I was overreacting and this wasn't a good way to start off the year.
That same semester, a guy was always in our dorm building and made a lot of girls uncomfortable but they never told him he couldn't be there. They just made sure he was gone by curfew.
Because of how the handled and treated me regarding the previous situation, I never said anything to anyone when he tried to rape me in my dorm. A friend walked in and he got mad and left.
If I could do it over again, I never wouldn't gone there. I made some lifelong friends from there, but overall it was just a lot of trauma.
Oddly enough, if I hadn't been at Benedictine, idk if I wouldn't remained Catholic through those years. I spent a lot of time, and many nights, in one of the multiple chapels.
I didn't attend any catholic schools so this is a bit of a tangent, but I just wanted to say that I super relate to this in part:
being raised conservative Protestant, in my case, and having a younger sibling come out as bi and genderqueer threw me into my own deconstruction. Some of our family and friends still don't completely understand how that led me and my husband to the Catholic Church, and I can't entirely articulate it yet either, but there is definitely so much change needed in the church regarding how we both talk about and coexist with other humans who do life differently than we do. I'm still unpacking it all, but simply being open to being wrong and willing to listen has really changed the game for me. It's hard but so worth it.
I went to Benedictine College. I honestly loved it the first two years. I did all the things a "good catholic" should, confession often and mass at least weekly and sometimes daily, was friends with the "right types of people," etc.
Then something switched my junior year. I saw so much hypocrisy and realized just how bogged down everyone was by all these rules. One time I witnessed two grown ass men get into an actually heated argument about whether daily mass or daily adoration was holier and better for your soul. It just turned me off and I spent my last two years there falling away and bitter towards everything. There was also a big SPO presence there as it always felt so bizarrely cult-ish. Like these people didn't know how to have regular friendships with the opposite sex.
I think I am most angry at Franciscan University because it is the summary of all that we shouldn't be as Catholics. I attended there for a year and there's this tangible hatred and judgment on this campus. It is so heartbreaking because I truly believe so many Catholics question and wrestle with a lot of teachings and the fear culture that Franciscan promotes injures it's students.
Why shouldn't we wrestle and question?! Isn't that life?
The toxicity that fear of questioning instills isolates you in a place like this. It's like you become an outsider. My sister and I both attended here for a year and came away with a lot of trauma. I am so grateful for therapy for a great deal of my recovery. The whole nature of the school and this toxic one way road to heaven draws a person into themselves.
It's made me hate Catholicism or even Christianity for promoting this God or faith solves all when there are serious mental disorders that need to be worked in THERAPY.
Feel free to share
I had lots of great experiences at Benedictine College. Most of the professors I had were lovely.
HOWEVER, the administration seems to be much more concerned with Catholic-looking vanity projects than the school's actual needs.
For example, in 2013 the school spent millions of dollars (I think 2mil?) on a 21 foot tall Marian fountain imported from Italy. It was a huge deal, and they used it to kick off a Marian consecration.
That's all nice, but the brand-new Engineering department (still working on accreditation at that time) was holding classes in literal trailers in the parking lot FOR YEARS. I got the inside scoop from an engineering student that worked as a research assistant for one of the professors. The engineering dept professors HAD funding for new classrooms (instead an actual building), but the budget money was reallocated to the Marian fountain.
I will follow up with links.
Article from 2016: The dept was still in trailers with an expectation to have a building in 2 years.
There were SO MANY of these expensive Catholic vanity projects happening when I was a student.
A huge statue of St. Benedict, a replica of the grotto at Lourdes, etc. There were classroom buildings and dorms that were literally falling apart. The music/education/art building (Bishop Fink Hall) was not ADA compliant, and the foundation was not sound.
St. Joseph men's dormitory was moldy and had no sink for students to wash their dishes (other than the one in the bathroom, which was a sanitation hazard).
Benedictine College is so focused on image, that some of the basics of keeping up a school and campus were ignored.
That's not to mention the other load of issues with the campus [at Franciscan]. The racism, homophobia, covered up sex abuse scandals, and overall shitty school academically speaking.
Side note but I have a story just to paint the picture of how nuts it was. I lived in Kolbe Clair Dorm the year I was there, 2017-2018. The RA's name at the time was Andrew. I kid you not, fucking Andrew sat my then bf and now husband down and asked if we were having sex because we'd been caught snuggling on couches laying down like watching a movie or something 😂. Like what the fuck? Its this arrogance and resumption that because your "Catholic" you can judge another persons life and without remotely knowing him.
I went to Ave. My parents gave all their kids an ultimatum that we had to attend a Newman Guide school. I have mixed feelings, because I made many happy memories there. The Literature department was engaging and I felt really allowed me to thrive academically. I met the love of my life there, and we were married shortly after graduating. There were definitely issues for non-white students, who were often constantly reminded of their non-whiteness. I remember joining into racist banter that I am so ashamed of- it was part of the culture, but that's still not an excuse.
I guess most of my trauma came after. Around 2019/2020, when the George Floyd protests began my spouse and I moved away from right-wing politics and went to
protests ourselves- things took a turn and we started losing our Catholic community.
Catholic college-adjacent: I was a NET missionary. I don't want to say too many details and out myself, but in brief, administration was not in touch with what was happening in team day-to-day. my male team leader was terrible at his job and awful to me and others, but a completely different person around leadership or other men. I was threatened with getting kicked out if I didn't stop having panic attacks. While going home may or may not have been the best thing for me, it was framed as "stop being this way or else" even though I had diagnosed anxiety that was being heightened by concrete issues. When I brought up genuine issues with team dynamics, I was told to "love harder".
I'm grateful for some of the relationships that came out of it, but the culture of "all your time should be ministry, even 'rest' " and ignoring human limitations because of God's grace is an unhealthy dynamic.
Everything was framed as being "God's will" a la Alphonsus Liguori, which was okay, I guess, but when bad things (I hesitate to use the word abuse, but it was emotional abuse adjacent, at the least) was happening, I felt and was told that I had no choice but to just get over it and accept God's will.
One of my teammates kept telling me that it wasn't God's wish for me to be in this situation, which thank God for him, but everyone in authority was pretty much just "suck it up and Choose Jesus Imao"
A few years down the road, I've been through a lot of therapy and deconstruction, and while I wouldn't necessarily say "never do NET" I think that missionary orgs and Catholic colleges need to be addressed with the caution that was always presented to me when talking about going to secular colleges. Everyone always talked about the dangers of losing your faith in secular college, but Catholic schools/missionary work was always held up as a sort of safe haven, and it's so unhelpful to put places on that sort of pedestal-kids go in unaware, and swallow up whatever they're told because it's supposed to be a safe place.
Okay while I didn't attend FUS, this was definitely my experience growing up there. It took me years (most of undergrad, then more) to get out of the "you need to do XYZ to be a good Catholic" mentality. I'm still working on some things, but at least I no longer feel like a bad Catholic for I saying "black lives matter" or "let's support women with fair compensation and maternity leave so they don't feel like abortion is their only option"
Fellow Seton Alum - I went to a different secular college and as an adult, I am mortified by the things I learned and believed there. So many folks at college were kind to me and helped me deconstruct the fears of the others I learned at Seton, but it took the better part of a decade.
... Also can you add that it is never the job of a marginalized group to educate or
assist in deconstruction?
My friends did so out of kindness and generosity but it was not their job at all and I'm super grateful!
As a Franciscan grad (undergrad and grad school), THIS. I'm still undoing a lot of damage that toxic environment did. I am thankful for some incredible friends that I
made there, but that's it. (And the way they have handled the Morrier situation is absolutely disgusting, but entirely unsurprising given my experiences with the
administration while I was there.)
I'm still processing it all years later - I know after leaving grad school that I very much resented FUS, but am only now really working through it. In a nutshell, it was largely about an appearance of being holy more than actually being holy/Catholic. And then judging harshly anyone who did not check their arbitrary boxes.
One story that I use as my go-to example of the environment: a friend I went to one of the formal dances with got VERY drunk on the way there (I had no idea she was drinking) and could barely walk by the time we got in. I decided we should leave because it was only getting worse, and my household sisters helped basically carry her out of the ballroom where formal was. We were getting nothing but dirty looks, and no one offered to help or showed any semblance of concern for her well being. Until the elevator doors opened into the lobby of the hotel, when the people waiting for the elevator (not connected to FUS at all) were immediately concerned and asked if they could help at all. It was such a stark contrast in reactions to someone who needed help.
Also the administration's handling of any sexual assault has always been deplorable - they say in their statement about Morrier that the victim was "advised of her right to go to the police" but that is complete bullshit, I knew multiple people who were assaulted by other students, and FUS did everything in their power to keep them from going to the police. Of course they said "you can, but you don't need to, we'll do a full investigation blah blah blah." And then they send the offender to "counseling" and spiritual direction but they don't get expelled and there's no criminal investigation.
And then the purity culture nonsense - I still have absolutely no idea how to date in the real world and have so much to work through/process.
My best friend was an SPO missionary and by the end of her time experienced so much spiritual trauma
I was a focus missionary and struggled when I left staff as well
For my friend, a lot of it had to do with their weird mindset regarding friendship and dating relationships between men and women and a frustration that relationship with
God had to look a specific way. And feeling like covenant communities are cult like
I went to a Newman guide school (Walsh university). This was more important to me than to my parents. Currently don't have kids but I don't think my husband and I would encourage our kids to attend Newman guide schools
Too much right wing politics
Too much self righteousness
I had Walsh and Franciscan on my list when applying to colleges. Ironically, they're where I wanted to go the most. I felt God tugging me towards a state school. I argued in prayer because I so desperately wanted to go somewhere where it would be easy to fall in love and stay grounded in my faith. He challenged me on that one, until I accepted my state school fate and the wisdom He had to offer me. After receiving judgmental remarks from family and friends about not going to a catholic university, my most common response became, "and how is the world to know Christ if the strongest of Christians are absent from the secular world during the years that are so formative to a person's intellect, character, professional and personal life as University?" and when told I would be brainwashed into atheism, my response was "no truth washed away so easily by the threat of intellectualism and secular culture is a truth worth my time."
In hindsight it was 100% the right decision. The only comment I get more than judgement from Catholics for my decision are the HUNDREDS of comments from my nonbeliever or protestant friends at my state school that more or less summed up as, "you're the only Catholic I've had a positive experience with. I'm more open to Catholicism/Christ/Christians because of you." I've wavered in my faith and faithfulness. it's hard to keep it in the world. but in the long term God's work in and through me has turned out to be pretty self-sufficient and less needing of cultural scaffolding than I used to think.
Went to Benedictine and honestly for the most part I got a lot out of my experience there. Met my husband (and we both are the type to push against the "norm") and on the whole we had some fantastic professors. I also got married and had a baby while still finishing school and all of my professors and advisors were extremely accommodating. The administration not so much.. I had to fight tooth and nail to get a parking pass to let me park in the faculty parking lot while 7-9mo pregnant and immediately post giving birth because they didn't think it was necessary or a problem for me to have to walk from my house off campus to the academic buildings in 90+ degree weather carrying all my books while pregnant. I also worked for the ministry office most of my time there and while it started off a great experience, it wound up being straight up abusive towards the end.
I got harassing phone calls because I refused to prioritize ministry work (that THEY gave to me last minute) over my final exams, very condescending and derogatory comments made to me questioning my abilities (even though I'd been doing my job there for several years and people loved my work), and my "hidden agendas" (I had none). They blamed me for their own mistakes and then tried to micromanage by "approving" every email and text I sent. And when I was a "summer counselor" for their high school programs, they literally refused to accommodate my food allergies or let me have time to go make my own food telling me it was a sign I needed to pray for Jesus to heal my food allergies 🤦♀️. I got so sick that summer from lack of nutrition and it's literally taken years to get my mental health back in order after the anxiety that caused.
Luckily that person has been fired!
But I also met some absolutely lovely mentors there that were very kind and respectful of everyone and I still strive to live up to their example. My husband and I are both still very much Catholic but certainly in a questioning phase of our spiritual life trying to figure out what the real truths of the Catholic faith are vs what everyone seems to think they are 🙄
I went to Benedictine and oh my goodness especially the last line about no one knowing how to have friendships with the opposite sex. I also know of a lot of women who were raped/SA and it was swept under the rug by OTHER WOMEN. They would hear about it and blame the woman for not having enough "emotional virtue" and "tempting" the guy. One guy sophomore year my friend told me a guy SAd her but prefaced it by saying that she needed to let him other wise it would be her fault when he went back to his dorm room and looked at porn. (Cause looking at porn is evidently worse than SA) And then when he finished made sure she needed to know that "she needed to go to confession for being physical with him" when he literally forced her
For the most part, the professors were great. The admin staff and a lot of the students…not so much.
VERY curious what the number of Christendom divorces are as well. Feels like at least half, myself included!
I'm both a Seton high school and Christendom grad. It took me 38 years to get to the place of deconstruction and finally being able to see everything I learned in those Catholic bubbles in the light of truth. This is in big part due to being a "cookie cutter Nova Catholic" kid at the time who, from childhood trauma with my narcissistic mom, learned not not think for myself or rock the boat.
All that shattered when I had to move to a safe house after 5 kids and 10 yrs of putting everything I had into my marriage. Despite having done everything right by the book and in Nova Catholic society, and having to divorce my narcissistic ex for my kids and my safety and mental health, STILL felt judged by Catholic society and that there isn't a place for us in the church.
Pt 2 Counseling, meeting "the world" through activities and finding them more kind and accepting of us really opened my eyes to the culture was raised in.
When I first began deconstruction, a dear friend told me this is an American church thing. Seton literally taught us that we were "the city on a hill" and how it was our jobs to evangelize the world. But the more I deconstruct, the more I believe there is the added component of these schools and the majority of their teachers professing their opinion as if it were church teaching. le "do not have anything to do with people who are Igbta+; correct treatment of them is to shun them". Heartbreaking, and completely manipulative to kids who don't know any better and hear it from others in this Catholic bubble.
I'm currently still Catholic, I believe in the true presence of the Eucharist although I'm not sure how. I keep reminding myself I'm here for Jesus and Jesus alone although some days I struggle with that too.
Pt 3 My 5 kids and I have open and regular conversations about these topics. About teachers opinions vs actual church teaching, respectful kind discussion with those they disagree with, how to be a supportive ally to friends who are questioning their sexual identity, putting up boundaries, recognizing manipulation, etc. I hope that raising children in this way and being active in our church can help effect the positive change that allows others to feel they have a place here with us. In talking with other parents, there are many of us who feel the same and are working towards this, one step, one hug, one smile at a time.
If you do end up sharing this tome, lol, it doesn't need to be anonymous. I'm happy to chat with others if they would like to reach out. It makes my heart happy that there are others who have come from the same bubble and made it past the lies to deconstruction. I'm proud to stand alongside them. ❤️
I went to Franciscan and overall had a really good experience there. I came to love Jesus, and learned how to have a prayer life.
My semester in Austria was amazing, and I have lifelong friends from that time. Granted, I have struggled recently with the Fr. Morrier abuse case. I was sexually groomed by a priest co-worker as an adult working for a parish. And to realize that Fr. Morrier was on campus during my time there was very triggering. I also
had problems with male-female friendships on campus. If you were with a guy, it seemed that everyone started talking and asking if you were dating. And there was so much pressure to find "the one". I was told that if I didn't find a spouse at Fransican I was doomed (in jest, but it still hurt). This caused a lot of guys to avoid women/never ask girls out.
There was no healthy middle ground of being friends w the opposite sex. That was so hard for me coming from having a lot of guy friends in high school and not being able to have that at Fransican. And I know a handful of couples from FUS who are now divorced. I really think that students are really naive
When they get married, and they feel like if they took "Christian Marriage" and "TOB" classes they are good to go. The classes were fine, but now in grad school I'm taking a moral theology/sexual ethics class where we read actual psychologist books on health marriages and that was completely missing at FUS
I didn't go to a Catholic college. But I was part of a campus ministry at a large state school that was run by SPO. I went in as a super devout Catholic and loved having a "home" at first. Until I started realizing how exclusive it was. My faith never felt good enough to be part of the "in crowd" with the missionaries.
There was a lot that I could see wrong with how they treated a lot of people but I can only speak for myself. I was encouraged to share my witness of "turning away from sexual sin" at a retreat. When said "sexual sin" was actually the story of my statutory rape. I always felt like I was being judged for not having a 100% attendance rate at events. I thought I knew better than pretty much everyone in my family and in my life. After leaving, I'm so much happier. I'm definitely questioning my whole faith now.
It's hard to know what was from God and what wasn't. Im lucky to have a little community of women who went through it together that are helping me process now.
I went to Thomas Aquinas College in the mid-to-late 2000s. Overall I personally had a positive experience, owing in large part to being white, cisgender, heterosexual, and phlegmatic enough to roll with the dress code and rules in place.
However, I know so many people there who were so physically while they were there due to all the stress (academic and otherwise) they underwent while they were there.
While there was a counselor that the College would sometimes refer students to, mental health was largely neglected, and certainly not approached proactively other than a talk by the (part time) school nurses telling incoming freshmen not to smoke or drink (quess what the most popular stress relief methods were). I fear it's only a matter of time before this blows up in their face in a bigger way than it already has. Also, the prefect system meant that rules were largely enforced by other students, which did not create a healthy atmosphere for students trusting each other. This is especi
The administrators of the College seriously and unironically referred to the College as a "Community of Trust", and this rhetoric especially came into play during an unpopular disciplinary incident during my junior year. For a "Community of Trust", the administration shows the students precious little trust and offers little guidance for students having a hard time. Although, as I said, my experience there was largely positive, I would not recommend the school for anyone who does not have a solid support system outside of the College as well.
Re: Franciscan. All I can say is I chaperoned a group to one of their high school summer conferences a few years ago. The talks/mass/etc. were in the field house and I remember being chilly due to the AC (a relevant detail later on). The last night of the conference, they have a big Eucharist Procession/adoration night in the the gym with lots music/worship/ etc. This is the night when people tend to have their "dramatic religious experiences." Well it was quite toasty in there so I had to step out into the lobby to cool off. Out there I happened to notice the thermostat temp was set to MUCH HIGHER than it was the previous days. Coincidence? Maybe. But this was also the "night" people be getting slain in the spirit (passing out?), etc. I remember seeing a poor girl out in the lobby having a full on panic attack.
I'm not super into the charismatic stuff, but I'm not opposed to it per se.
However, in charismatic circles esp at FUS, there is an overemphasis on emotional religious experiences that is really unhealthy. A mental breakdown is not a religious experience.
I had great teammates on NET, but NET overall creates a very toxic environment and problematic relationship with those of the opposite sex. Overall, my time on NET hurt my faith more than helped.
And I fear I hurt kids' faith as well because those retreats are anything but helpful.
The environment of NET. especially training and times the missionaries were together, was very reliant on tangible signs of the Holy Spirit working. We had one prayer night where we were instructed to pray for the gift of prophecy, specifically for the person next to us. I got nothing. My partner got nothing. I felt stupid or unworthy and it was suggested I go to confession to become a better host for the Spirit. Praise and worship nights were full of people praying in tongues and falling to the floor saying they were slain by the Spirit. I'm talking like 20-30 people within the span of an hour just falling. We had a retreat where we were prayed over and I just pretended to get slain so they would stop touching me. While I believe that the Spirit can and does work in these ways, NET is an environment where it is required in order to show yourself as a good missionary.
Overall I felt incredibly fake the whole time I was there and still struggle with thinking that a quiet prayer can be fruitful. I was 18 when I served and this was my first experience being in a completely Catholic bubble. I'm very glad I chose to not attend FUS after NET like I planned to do. Those Catholic bubbles do more harm than good for most.
It's been almost 6 years since I left the road. I enjoyed the community aspect of NET and I miss my teammates, but I am unlikely to ever recommend anyone go serve with NET.
NET related: I was on a NET retreat as a senior in high school. The night they had the Eucharistic procession and P&W, there was a girl who was "slain in the spirit". She looked like she was having a seizure and no one was helping her. I was so scared and tried to go help her as I was a pious and overly helpful girl who happened to have first aid training. I was stopped by twice by two different people who said she was fine and safe and to "let the spirit move in her" and "let God work in her" and some other bullshit. After the second person stopped me, we hear "can we get some help!"
GUESS WHO WAS HAVING A SEIZURE.
And I was told to go sit down.
Too long to reply to your story lol but here is my experience. Also thank you for your continued safe place and providing space for people to be heard.
I didn't go to a Catholic school, I went to UCF, and the Catholic Campus Ministry there had a very strong Saint Paul's Outreach and Brotherhood of Hope presence. Since graduating and being away I've realized a lot of things that were just really shitty and awful, that either happened to me or to people I love and it's extremely painful. Because I kinda saw it when I was in it, but the more time I spend away and talk to like my close friends that had similar or identical experiences, the only word I can think of is tragic.
Catholicism has been my whole life for so long, and such a huge part of my identity for pretty much my whole life, so when I went to college, I found this group of people who I felt I could finally relate to. I'm realizing now that I was incredibly vulnerable. I was severely depressed and anxious throughout high school and college, and without going too much into detail, I was seeking community only to be continually and consistently rejected
It's been very hard to untangle. I don't necessarily want to stop being catholic or leave the church, like there's things there that I still believe in and things that resonate with me, but there's so much that I dont agree with and so much ive been hurt by, like spo/ccm, purity culture, lack of mental health/trauma informed authority or messaging, and then the more widespread things like abuse, teachings on LGBTQ+ people, politics, sex ed, I could literally go on and on. I'm also feeling a lot of quilt for being involved in communities that perpetuated this kind of stuff, especiallv now that im realizing just how damaging it was.
I haven't been to mass in probably 2 months, which, at least for me ive never in my life not gone for over a week. I just cant bring myself to do it. I still love Jesus and I still believe in God its just been such a disconnect. Im trying to find out how God isn't necessarily synonymous with twisted religion or harmful views or the people that spread them.
But that is really hard. Because all my life up until the last few years, my definition of God has meant all those things, I just didn't realize.
Thank you again this space is incredibly healing
Idk if this would interest you, but the superintendent of Boston Catholic schools is pretty exclusively recruiting teachers and administrators from these colleges.
I went to Benedictine college from 2015-2017 . l'd like to start off by saying I'm a disabled Latina woman. I went into Benedictine college with high hopes, I truly wanted to grow in my faith and learn from others. Man was I wrong. I have never felt more isolated, silenced and betrayed by the staff and students at that school.
It didn't matter if I was a practicing Catholic, all they saw was "brown women". I thought to myself "mavbe it's because I'm not Catholic enough, I don't know enough about scripture or doctrine " I did my best to learn all I could to "prove " myself to these people . Nope, all these people cared about was THEIR appearance, money, sucking the tit of Trump, and shaming others into thinking like a Republican.
Growing up I was taught to love and to serve because that is what Christ did and wanted. I did not see Christ in these people I saw something mean and ugly I left and now love and serve to the best of my ability.
Just wanted to chime in here as someone who went to a public university, the (lack of a) response to sexual assault is hardly just a Catholic school issue, it is a broader issue across higher education. It is something that school of all types, public, private, religious, and secular schools do.
Something that many women have been told on college campuses across the country are that campus security and Title IX offices are where assault cases go to die.
You will always be better off calling the police. Once they arrive, then feel free to loop in the school, but let the actual cops handle it (especially if there is physical evidence)
My archdiocese is heavily recruiting chancery staff from FUS too. Basically the 3rd in command of our diocese is a grad from there and shortly after he came he cleaned house and restructured all departments then bit by but hired new employees, many of whom are from FUS. Most department heads are white males. And he eliminated the position of Superintendent and replaced with a 'director of education' (whatever the heck that means… probably an excuse to hire a female and pay her less).
Yes you can share. Can I not say the diocese? I think that could come back to me and he's in a position he could (and would) have me fired.
Sure, thank you for asking about this. My therapist went to Divine Mercy University and just didn't know much about the queer community. This was harmful to me because I spent my sessions explaining my culture, community, and beliefs to her instead of getting helping me navigating being queer and Catholic. I do not blame her. I blame the college for not training therapists well in this area. I have a suspicion that this is not only a problem at Divine Mercy University but at other Catholic and Christian colleges too.
I can share. I went to Uber Catholic Opus Dei school in Colombia. Many yrs ago.
First off, they off the bat recruit you to be in Opus Dei the minute they see you attending Mass.
Also, I was assaulted by a super fervent Catholic dude, in my class. It was scary, and awful, and I denounced him with one of the chaplains in the school who was his spiritual counselor. To do so was embarrassing even when I did absolutely nothing wrong. As far as Know NOTHING ever happened to him. That was horrible. I felt betrayed. I still, 22 years later feel betrayed.
Opus day, in general, is a sexist, elitist group of ppl in love with status and things that have nothing to do with the Gospel. And it hurts.
They also recruited me to denounce a teacher who was being frank about the Church's involvement is the Inquisition and negative historical facts. I was naive enough to relay what he taught. After, he was let go. So no. Awful experience and imagine that in a Journalism school!
Dude can we talk about focus missionaries too? It's like they snatch you up the second they can when you're in your new and vulnerable years in college, so by the time you graduate, becoming a missionary is the only thing you know to do. This is the problem with so many of their male missionaries. I've heard too many stories of my female friends being groomed or SA'd by male missionaries because they're essentially immature boys when they first get sucked in, and get put on a pedestal once they're in.
They manipulate and get way too involved with young men and women. Everything about a 25-35 yr old missionary constantly surrounding themselves with young 18-20 yr old college students is a major red flag for me, idc if you're "Catholic"
I laugh be I was waiting for this to come up. I was a focus missionary for 4 years. Lots of good about focus but ultimately I left because of toxic stuff like this here being described
The mission to live the gospel through prayer and friendship is wonderful. I learned so much about prayer and having a relationship with Christ. I met my husband and am so grateful for him. But there isn't good training on pastoral counsel, there is too much focus on numbers which leads to manipulation, there isn't good training on boundaries or transitions. All of this is super needed in a ministry that is relationship based but with relationships that are brief be it's college. Also, it was becoming a more and more of a conservative bubble while I was with focus; like I was seeing racism and homophobic stuff that wasn't being called out. And since it's mentorship based other people are being mentored into that toxicity. These kids are fresh out of college and have minimal theological training and yet act like experts on theology; also a problem. As they grow these issues seem to just get bigger instead of addressed
Not to mention the missions program with focus. White saviorism at its finest and so bad.
Misuse of funds. There are so many issues with that department; definitely the most corrupt part of the org.
Also I think it's important to note that the corruption in catholic schools is linked to focus. Focus was a brainchild of Benedictine admins and they recruit tons of kids from there every year. They are basically there to recruit missionaries. So from what I'm reading about toxic stuff at Benedictine that seems to be feeding right into focus be of the connection
I was a Christendom kid too. So my story is interesting. Somehow the Holy Spirit moved in my heard to listen and deconstruct and leave the rigid behind. So it makes me less patient with the corruption be if I could do it why can't they?
Honestly Christendom was a step up from the toxic community I grew up and in same with FOCUS.
So it was like stepping stones. But Christendom didn't really help with the deconstruction; I think I was just horrified by the overt racism be I grew up with pretty passive racism. The deconstruction started for me when I was a focus missionary in Boston and heard the female head of ministry to black Catholics speak. And that's when I realized racism was still alive and well even in the church and I started to do the work. Now I'm a social worker so my grad school at a secular university (West Chester University of PA) was so helpful as well. But it was uncomfortable for me at first. But I'm so grateful i did the work. My husband is also not white, he's Korean. So if I wanted to be a good wife and a good social worker I needed to take some good hard looks inside and do a lot of work.
So I guess i was motivated because I realized that my views and my actions hurt people. And that wasn't how I wanted to live my life. As painful as the deconstruction has been Im happier than I've ever been and more enriched in my life because I'm able to have real relationships that are human
She [that head of ministry] shared the history of racism in the church. Like how priests wouldn't marry biracial couples because it wasn't "legal" and I think she also talked about bishops involvement in slavery. Like she was just honest about how bad the church has been when it comes to racism It was years ago so I honestly don't remember too many specifics though I just remember being inspired by her and wondering how she was Catholic after all the crap her family and community had been through
As a therapist who graduated from FUS I can 100% confirm this is true. I have had to work to educate myself post grad on a lot but especially specifically about LGBTQ+ culture and needs because Franciscan sure as hell did not and it was a complete disservice to my clients.
Its also incredibly frustrating and disheartening that parents will see that I graduated from FUS, assume certain things about my beliefs and approach to therapy based off of that, and then set up their kid with me for therapy asking that I "fix" their child who recently came out to them. This has happened several times, and I continue to have to explain that I will not do conversion therapy (that conversation therapy is illegal and unethical), that I will not misgender their child, I will affirm their child and their experiences, and that if they don't like that they will have to find a new therapist. Most do. But the whole thing is a testament to the rampant homophobia and transphobia that is just expected of people who graduate from these schools.
So l went to Ave Maria College in Michigan, finished my degree at Steubenville, and then went on to teach at a small Catholic college here in Canada - Seat of Wisdom college - where I did the theatre program as an adjunct for 10 years. At each place there have been serious concerns regarding assault and abuse, as well as abysmal policies around harassment of any kind in particular. The modesty issues at each of them are your classic run-of-the-mill conservative school, however SWC has been making a name for itself in the media for their support and connections with Lifesite News, Catholic Insight publication (which is run by founder/theology professor) and their most recent scandal regarding how they dealt with a music professor to groomed and later assaulted a former student. If anyone would like to Google these please do and please feel free to share this and leave my name attached if anyone else wants support and connection around their experience at Ave or SWC.
it's almost hard to describe homophobia at SW. I had male students coming to me to report that while no public displays of affection were allowed between Hetero couples, the same sex displays of affection as a joke, or outright violent hazing within the dormitories was considered a non-issue because "same-sex attraction is against church teaching and it's not an issue at our Catholic school". When students were suspected as "same-sex attraction" I would be asked to check on them to make sure their mental health was OK. I was the theatre professor without any training in this.
The constant tirades within the classroom making fun of gay people, is something that many students reported to me, and homophobic jokes and statements could be found in almost every yearbook.
With regards to Ave and Franciscan, so many couples that I know personally ended up with marriages that fell apart because of a reoccurring theme of abuse, particularly in relation to marital rape. This was also explicitly taught at Seat of wisdom where the Christian doctrine teacher shared what he later qualified as "an opinion" that "you have to marry a good one ladies because you have to give it to him anytime he wants it". In subsequent years, the lunchtime discussion among students waxed eloquent saying that "a woman gives consent on her wedding night" …for the rest of her life, and this is why marital rape is not possible in Christian marriage.
I relate to this SO much. I'm a Seton high school + Franciscan grad. Both taught the "absolute right way" to think and act, and while I credit both with giving me a lot of good theology, they also taught me to be so rigid in my thinking: never attend a wedding at a country club, abuse is usually the woman's fault. "same sex attraction" can be cured, etc.
Graduating left me vulnerable and clueless about the real world. As I came to terms with my own LGBTQ identity and was later sexually assaulted, I had to reorient my brain to recognize that I could be Catholic and also these things I experienced.
I'm still practicing (somehow) but mainly because of the Eucharist. It's definitely not because of the rigid teachings I received at either school.
And after the Morrier debacle (he was my spiritual director for a year while I was there 😬) I would not encourage my children to attend either.
I was really involved with the Canadian version of Focus (CCO) and can confirm they're deeply manipulative. So many red flags I wish I could point out to my nineteen-year-old self
They're there to sell Catholicism as a product and they work to make sure the students they work with meld their personal identity with being a salesperson for the church. All the friendliness and support is conditional on obedience and bringing in new members.
l joined because I wanted to make Catholic friends on campus; I was told instead that they weren't a "Catholic club" and that they were there to evangelize students. So l faced a ton of peer pressure from my newfound friends to go "evangelize" my non-Christian friends, hand out tracts to random people, and other gross MLM-adjacent tactics that I wanted nothing to do with and which did nothing but alienate me further from non-Christians and pushed me deeper into an isolated Catholic bubble.
It's just intensely manipulative- they find lonely undergraduate teenagers struggling to make friends and take advantage of them
Also the first person I came out to was a campus missionary and the things I was told were so homophobic and toxic that I stayed in the closet for several more years
I started a mental health advocacy organization largely because of my experiences in these circles (1 year at Franciscan, 6 months discernment in a lay consecrated community, 3 years as a FOCUS missionary). There was little to no awareness or understanding of mental illness or what healthy friendships should look like in any
of these circles. Human growth or formation is overlooked in favor of knowing the right things and looking holy.
In FOCUS we had no mental health awareness training even though so many students were facing mental health struggles, sexual assault, or other trauma. Missionaries were left helping the best they knew how, which varied greatly, and regardless is way too much to ask of 20 something's without training! We should have had basic training of what to do and how to get students the right help, not been left to figure it out or ignore this important part of their health and lives.
Anyway, this page and the larger organization are dedicated to creating mental health training and changing a lot of the unhealthy elements that are being shared about. If it could be helpful to others, I'd love if you shared this page.
Lmao this reminds me of when multiple religious (sisters and friars) at FUS told me to just mumble (and keep just saying gibberish) until I would eventually be speaking in tongues. There was a phrase they wanted us to keep saying and I remember one of the words was "Honda" and I just found not take anything seriously.
So when I was a sophomore at Christendom College, I was sexually assaulted by a "Greg's boy" (graduate from Greg's Academy). I immediately (within seconds) reported to an RA and was escorted back to my dorm. I made a full report to the head RA that night on a spiral notebook and signed the papers. I was never offered to file a police report and I was in such shock, it never occurred to me. I also never spoke with the realtor of women that night or at all.
What I should've done and what was done haunts me to this day but I didn't fully know how to navigate that situation. And no one talked me through it. l expected the next morning to report to administration to continue some sort of process. But no one ever called me in, comforted me, offered help or anything. Instead, by the time classes began the next morning, most of the student body knew. I was harassed and bullied for weeks to drop the charges. The school never intervened.
Nothing was ever done. I was never approached, interviewed, or spoken to by college faculty or administration. My father called a couple weeks later, to demand why this man had never been punished.
They told my father they were not pursuing disciplinary action, that it was my fault and I shouldn't have been dressed the way I was (I met the stringent college dress code which basically equated looking like a frump).
I spent three years on the same campus as the man who sexually assaulted me. So day I was constantly retriggered is a gross understatement. I constantly feared for my safety. It ruined my college experience. Nearly my entire class turned against me and excluded me for the rest of my time there.
This man had an incredible college experience. He was labeled a victim and raised up by the college as a victim and hero. He is now a high profile reporter for the Washington Examiner.
In January of 2018, someone reached out to me to warn me about Fisher's article. I was so retriggered. I thought I'd been the only one, but so many people including friends I'd made after graduation were assaulted and raped while at CC and never were helped.
I reached out to the college after they requested that any victims contact them so they could help. In the end, it was just a PR stunt. We were initially offered counseling, only to have that denied. In the end, they demanded I "extend mercy and let it go."
Turns out, my initial report was never turned in. Instead the head RA and the dean of women forged a report and filed it with the school saying I had a romantic interest in this man and that we had an argument. I initially blamed him for assault but then begged his forgiveness in from of them RA.I have papers to prove all of this.
The college had a chance to do right by me twice. Twice they failed me. My four years were defined by multiple forms of trauma and Bullying while there.
In the fall if 2018, I started trauma therapy. It changed my life, allowing me too finally share my story and say out loud how much I despise that school. I wish I'd
shared my story when I had the chance, but it was too terrifying.
I'm so grateful you're sharing these stories, Chris. I can't tell you how healing it is to be believed and validated.
And absolutely share.
I was involved on the periphery of FOCUS-as a student leader first and then as a friend of missionaries-from about 2005 to the 20teens. It got worse when it became "big." The earlier years were okay, or at least the small part of the proverbial elephant that I can speak to. As the demand for campus ministry grew, they started hiring people who weren't qualified and adopting these uncomfortable marketing tactics aimed at getting large numbers. It felt sometimes like they wanted to make Catholicism a lifestyle brand. I remember asking older missionaries about this-if they saw it, too-and they did. Eastern Catholicism was also grossly ignored (though I hear that's improving)
So, there were some good things going, and probably still are, but there was a significant change around 2009 as the focus went to numbers over ministry.
To chime in again - I'm SO glad I never took "Christian Marriage" at FUS. I had a lot of friends who took it our semester in Austria and eeeeveryone was so excited to take it with this prof. He basically taught his personal opinion/interpretation as if it were Catholic Teaching. (I remember hearing stories about what he taught regarding specific sexual acts and in what context they were "ok" per the Church. Except the Church has never given guidelines/rules so specific.) I cannot imagine the damage done to so many people and marriages
It's been so long I don't remember specifics, I just remember hearing that he went into details about how oral and anal sex could be done in ways that made them "ok" by Church standards. I didn't take the class, so I only heard it secondhand. I also don't know the nitty gritty specifics of Church teaching (I was a biology major that's a whole other can of worms re academics at FUS), so l couldn't say whether what he said was kosher or not. I just remember that it was very clearly his interpretation, but being taught as fact/definitive.
You might have followers who took his class - his name is Asci. I'll ask a friend who took his class if she remembers more details!
... I want to give the caveat again that I didn't take the class myself, I just remember being skeptical that this prof was teaching these things as if they were direct Church teaching.
(TW: some SA description) I was SA while at Benedictine. The night that it happened, I ran to my dorm hall and he followed me up to the door. My RD was in her office when I walked in (probablv like 1AM?). I was drunk, hysterically crying, and bloody. I remember being seating in the RD's office and asked to recap what happened. After some time, I went back to my room & cried myself to sleep. The next morning I was a total emotional wreck. Broken, defeated, scared, and it was very obvious I wasn't my usual self.
Some of my "holier than thou" friends suggested I go to confession (for what exactly????).
At the time I was concerned with being a "good, Catholic woman" and the fact that someone I wasn't married to had violated me meant it was my fault? In the confessional, I told Fr. a shame filled version of the SA. All he said was "oh don't be so hard on yourself, that kind of thing happens all the time here" and chuckled. I will NEVER forget that.
My RD followed up with me once to see "how I was doing". I'm sure it was to see if I remembered anything from our convo from that night so she wouldn't have to do anything about it. The semester the SA happened was during the 2016 elections. Benedictine became "God Bless Trump" land because he was going to "save
the babies". It was around the time the infamous "grab them by the p****" video was relevant. That was beyond triggering to me. The fact that these people blindly
accepted a man with this accusations, it made me feel unsafe and like if I ever tried to speak out, I would be dismissed (as | had been already). I was out of there after that semester. I went to Benedictine with the hope of a good Catholic community, and I left with so much trauma and a lot of debt.
Also, I know this person. ❤️ she's so wholesome and one of my favorite people! We sometimes go on our "how Benedictine traumatized us" rants together as a way to cope and heal. I appreciate you sharing similar stories and it makes it all feel less
I feel this was very much the case in my work in Residence Life at FUS. We were treated as if we were in a pastoral care role, supposed to be an integral part of other students' support systems, all while being 19-22, full-time students, involved in households (which required a lot), and having basically no actual training in pastoral care, mental health, etc.
I have so many issues I could get into on this topic, but this aspect in particular has really been on my heart in recent weeks.
Having now spent the better part of my adult life working in ministry and pastoral care and social Justice issues, I'll appalled at the responsibility and expectations placed on reallilly young adults, basically just out of high school or college (whether at Catholic universities, or in missionary organizations.) Not to mention the way we were promised issues would be handled, when passed on to superiors, often to find that they actually weren't or were handled very poorly.
It didn't happen at Christendom, where I briefly went to school, but when I was raped, the Catholic/purity culture lens was the only lens through which I could see the entire experience. I confessed my own rape and got reamed out by the priest. My rapist walked away totally free, and I was made to assume all guilt and responsibility.
It was ten years before I could even entertain the idea that it was assault. My therapist had to tell me it was rape. There's so much anger there. There's so much broken trust in the Church. I was revictimized, and a rapist walked away.
That the Church enabled my rapist and then ensured he would never face any consequences is a hundred times more difficult to process and heal from than the
actual rape. It's breathtaking. I never trusted my rapist. I didn't spend 30 years of my life dedicated to my rapist. I didn't try to conform my life for my rapist.
He didn't have access to the parts of me the Church did. He broke my surface. The Church shattered my core.
... I'm so grateful that you're bringing attention to this. So many of us are forgotten by the Church. As a mother with young girls, I can't bring my children up in the Church in good conscience, but that is a profound loss I feel everyday.
I graduated from TAC and I wish more people would be critical of the school to help future students make informed choices. There's a very strong implication that the only problem students are those who drink or smoke and don't go to daily mass. There's so much misogyny that never gets addressed because most students don't realize or acknowledge that sexual harassment and assault is a problem on campus. As a pretty progressive and feminist woman I was usually dismissed pretty quickly when I talked about issues I saw. All the girls I know who were sexually assaulted during their time there were too afraid to speak up and risk alienating themselves from the community. I experienced sexual abuse when I was there, and I never felt comfortable reporting it at all because I knew that the narrative would be that it was probably my fault. The administration and alumni would rather throw students under the bus than admit faults of the school and program.
Someone very close to me was asked during the end their FOCUS interview if they were gay. After being told earlier in the interview that they were "exactly what they
were looking for", they denied this person and told them to never reapply because the answer would always be no. I have been massively struggling with my faith since learning of this incident and am absolutely embarrassed to be considered catholic alongside these people. It is enraging and sickening that the church will turn its back on its own people for simply being who God made them to be.
This happened to a kid at my church but with NET. My mom was the youth minister and a young man about to graduate high school was applying to NET. He got the most glowing letters of rec from the priest, my mom, other people in the church. He was rejected. They asked him if he was gay during the interview and he said he felt he had to be honest and so he'd told them yes. My mom was furious and called them to point blank ask if that's the reason he was denied, since he had insanely good references and history in ministry. They didn't outright say that was why but it was implied. That kid ended up leaving the church. He was destroyed by that. At the time he knew he was gay but was adamant about "staying in line with church teaching" and was crushed that this was the reason he was rejected.
This was exactly how the GIVEN Forum was last year. Why did we need to have the "healing Eucharistic adoration" experience outside in early-June DC humidity with no A/C under a white tent when we had full access to any of Catholic U's 6 on-campus chapels?? Because they wanted us to have some sort of profound(ly unhealth) religious experience. Don't even get me STARTED on the weird use of evangelical "healing white tent" culture. I could go on and on about how the GIVEN Forum isn't actually about Catholic women's professional development, but telling women who and what to be on the context of extreme trauma bonding and exclusion of women with "sinful pasts"
As long as it's anonymous [you can share], yea. You wouldn't BELIEVE the pushback I've gotten for sharing about it. And the risk I put to myself professionally for speaking up while I was there. It was horrible.
Like one of the "Catholic doctor" speakers joked about botching a surgery after she finds out her patients are cohabitating. And I was told not to talk about being engaged to a non-Catholic person because it might "lead others astray"
I went to TAC for 3 years and spent most of struggling with depression, anxiety, and
undiagnosed bipolar. Toxic environment. I will never teach at a Catholic school. I will probably never talk about being sexually assaulted in my 20s. I seldom talk about having gone to TAC. I stayed Catholic because of my inpatient stays in Catholic hospitals when my suicidal ideation was at its worst. I had one really good pastor who would ask me about how therapy and medication were going after he guided me through marriage prep and my ex left me shortly before the date. Being abandoned like that, fired, assaulted, abused, nothing has ever been as awful as TAC. At least it was wretched enough that it sent me on a path in pursuit of therapy.
I went to both Christendom and Franciscan. Franciscan seemed like a relief to what Christendom was. There was entire modesty section in the CC handbook and I was regularly sent back to my room to change because my outfits for modesty. I kissed several boys while there, and by the next morning, the entire boys side of campus knew. But you would have thought I'd had sex with someone in the middle of the dining hall! Christendom made me hate being Catholic because everything was equated to modesty.
This whole thread also brought me screeching back to the year one of the Theology professors (a Catholic covert) cheated on his wife with a student, eventually divorcing and leaving his wife for the student. That whole thing was left unaddressed and shushed like it never happened. He had a bunch of kids too.
There were clearly rules for men and rules for women, and they weren't the same.
Regarding Arrest of Mitchell Bolkcom
For a local example, this youth minister from prior lake was arrested for raping a teenager. He was FOCUS missionary at the time of the arrest.
This is the focus statement. So focused on their reputation and appearance.
Their "rigorous hiring process" never figured out that he didn't actually graduate from college, despite what his application read.
This whole thread was so validating for me. Thank you for posting it.
This EXACT same thing literally happened to my best friend and he's now vehemently atheist and I can't say I blame him. He was treated horribly by his family, his parish [for being gay].. then got rejected by NET even though the guy who was his roommate during their interview weekend got hired despite actively having a porn addiction.
Thank you so much for sharing this! This is the first time I haven't felt alone! I went to Ave Maria University from 09-13 and while I loved my professors and most of my classes, I had a few traumatic experiences in relationships with supposed great Catholic men one I dated (he raped me,) the other I was engaged to and he ended up being verbally, mentally, and physically abusive. I thought I was the worst broken person when I saw "amazing and holy" relationships when my experiences were terrible. By the time I ended college many of my female friends dropped me bc my fiance and I ended things due to his abuse, hatred for NFP, and insistence that since I had bipolar, "you're only going to get worse."
And those were my household sisters who said he was right. :/
There was also a push from students to be able to have the opposite sex in their dorm room. I never understood that "need." I really wish they had better support for mental health when I was there.
... Been thinking over the best way to answer your question, and I even reached out to a few friends from college I stay in contact with. We agreed there was toxic purity culture happening on campus at the time, and some of the Faith was over spiritualized. My own situation with being raped, I believed it was my fault and since I was too sick at the time, had shared with others that this was also my fault because I was so focused on sexual acts outside of marriage being sinful. Instead of recognizing I was Sick, the priest who was my spiritual director at the time gave me advice for ways for me to stay more pure in the relationship.
... I would like to add I do have good memories from Ave as well, and I never allowed my bad experiences to ruin my Faith. It did take a lot of healing thanks to therapy and an incredible spiritual director for me to be happy again after the traumatic experiences. Also, thank you again for opening up this discussion. It's stuff I normally don't share, but I think that's mostly because no one has ever asked.
I just wanted to pop over here and say as a recent DMU grad, I want to apologize on behalf of whoever this therapist was. It's part of a good therapist to understand
someone's identities! Some of us are fighting the good fight along side you all, part of why I follow this page.
My experience at DMU was largely positive. There are a lot of good people there who are really trying to form good therapists. And a graduate from DMU could be uniquely suited to hold with care the intersectionality of religion and sexuality. I'd encourage people on this page to ask good questions when they initially consult a therapist because it's all about finding a good fit. Does your therapist have interest and experience working with LGBTQ folks? Have they received training in this area? Who are they generally marketing their practice to?
I appreciate the work that you're doing. It's a special kind of pain to be hurt by organizations one is encouraged to trust.
I would argue (as a therapist myself) and you cannot discriminate and even if LGBTQ isn't your specialty you still need to be able to hold an unbiased and supportive space for your client.
It's not my "specialty" and I don't have personal experience but I make a point that my clients who are part of the LGBTQ Communty feel safe. le having a flag in my office and LGBTQ affirming language. You should be checking vour biases and if vou don't feel comfortable working with a client who is part of the community maybe you need to ask yourself why l also had a recent experience w a recent DMU grad who clearly did not receive training on the latest research around the opioid crisis and definitely seemed like his training was out of date.
Clients shouldn't be forced to "come out" just to find a therapist who is going to be safe for them. The self-advocacy that this person is recommending is great but therapists have a responsibility to create a safe space for EVERYONE
If DMU isn't teaching that then I have concerns
Oh gosh. Reading these has been both traumatic and very healing. l attended Franciscan for 2 1/2 year- and as a junior I did not return for the spring semester.
I was struggling with mental health issues, and my mothers health back home and received little support other than offers of prayer and blaming mental health stuff
on a lack of trust in the Lord. Even the counseling center was full of that mentality. It just compounded problems blaming them on lack of faith and drive, rather than anxiety and depression. So unhealthy.
I left and didn't return- having to drive back 9 hours to pack up my stuff was humiliating.
Only one professor on campus was supportive- Dr Doyle in the History department. He was the one who told me "going home might be better than here for you. And that's okay." All while smoking a cigarette behind Egan hall.
I never finished my degree, and even though I could get a paper saying I have an associates, I honestly don't want it. Even w/ the student loans.
So many teachings there were problematic, and 10 years later I am amazed by the honestly poor education I received there.
The clubs and political driving force on campus was intense. Having any view that contradicted the GOP was considered sacrilege. I'm fact, many times it was said around campus that not voting republican was a sin.
I am so glad I left and met and incredibly diverse group of friends and people who pushed me to be the best version on myself and who respected me for my faith
and I respected them.
The problem with FUS was that there was no finding common ground and loving people who disagreed, only condemnation. Fire and brimstone and praying over each other to be rid of these problems. Someone else mentioned a phrase given for trying to speak in tongues- it's totally true. Many prayer groups on campus did that to "teach you how in order to be open." It's crazy looking back now.
“I also went to Benedictine. The person who said they care more about image than their students/actual catholic teaching was SPOT ON. There was a pregnancy resource center owned by one of the professors that served the small and impoverished college town, and it shut down due to lack of funding-even when the professor begged the college for help. They didn't need much-less than 10K per year.
The college is HAPPY to spend 10x that helping students attend the March for life because they get plenty of good publicity from that. But helping actual mothers in their community is apparently beyond them. I also know a student who got kicked off campus for disobeying the rules by having sex in the dorms-and they wouldn't even let her eat in the cafeteria-she was only allowed to get her food to go, as if she was going to contaminate the other students with her sin.”
“I have a story of what I consider low-key, mass grooming at FUS on the part of Fr. Dave Morrier, if you're interested in sharing.
My freshmen year (09-10), I believe, I attended a women's event at FUS. It was in the Fieldhouse (implying the event was university-run, or at least run by a university sub-group rather than a student sub-group). There were at least 150 women attending. And the only content I remember was the closing prayer.
A woman brought Fr. Dave on stage, saying he'd lead us in a prayer to "heal our memories." For about 20 minutes, we sat silently as he asked us to think of someone who hurt us, walk through memories of them hurting us, and then forgive them.
The prayer struck me because it was more woO-woo than I was comfortable with. Now I understand how toxic it was. I wonder how many women unearthed painful - if not seriously traumatic - memories and, as they had no real help processing, then turned to him for assistance. And the kicker is that a woman introduced the prayer - So at least one other person (or more likely, based on my knowledge of how FUS runs such events, a whole retreat team of people) knew Fr. Dave's plan and no red flags we're raised. I know I'm looking through 2022 lenses where we talk more openly about trauma and mental health, but it still shocks me no one thought this was bad or at least weird.
“Thank you so much for this. I attended two Newman universities and was heavily involved in NET + Steubenville conferences in high school. I also attended an all girls Catholic high school for 3 years (family moved when I was 17).
Catholic young adult spaces such as youth ministry & education these spaces that are supposed to be made safe by adults - are rife with abuse and manipulation, and that is passed down to the younger generations. The racism I witnessed at university (ie: white male, who worked on Capitol Hill, repeatedly using the n word in conversation and no one spoke up) was astonishing. Personally, I was sexually assaulted, sexually manipulated, subject to gender based discrimination & illegal ableism, experienced targeted homophobia from peers & professors, and overall existed in a space of being consistently exposed to manipulations and cover ups. The pressure to be a "good Catholic woman" is immense in these spaces. If you break the mold, you are ostracised
“YES!!!! The director of the priestly discernment program at FUS used this exact tactic on me!!!! "You need to forgive yourself for letting yourself be abused - you need to forgive your abuser, he was barely an adult anyways, it will make you feel better to forgive"
“I was at FUS from 08-14 and this was an extremely common theme. Dredging up extremely, extremely traumatic memories and having no one there to help you process, intentionally, because it was through the emotional music, prayers, "speaking in tongues" and priests like Fr Dave praying over you.
I literally never thought twice about it at the time because we were taught to trust these priests and leaders without question because they had all the answers. So listening to them and praying their prayers only left us wanting more prayers and more time in their presence bc we had no other way to fix our problems.”
“Yikes yikes yikes. I will say, there was quite a bit of this on NET too and some trauma bonding. BUT. In NET Ireland's defense, my first year we were very lucky in that the director's mother was with us at training. She is a certified psychologist who works with NET Australia (which I've heard is vastly different and I hope what I've heard is true like girls aren't shamed for wearing bikinis cuz it's just cultural norm). Some net staff offered that I experience individual healing of memories prayer from her and some others trained in it, and to her immense credit she refused to do it with me unless I also agreed to get actual psychological help. Not in a manipulative way, but in a recognizing that the healing of memories thing was only one element and what I really needed was professional psychological help. I have a lot I could say about theophostic prayer but I think then even in net circles it became popularized and used poorly by people who maybe experienced it but need training”
“[This is] giving voice to so many of us who were silenced and attention to the reality of the grave harm done to so many in the name of God.
This post [from 2009-2010], I sobbed. This was the year that Morrier did this very thing with me 1:1, the beginning of the spiritual abuse, that led to criminal physical and psychological abuse, that started the criminal sexual abuse. I fell right into his twisted hands because all I wanted was his promise that ‘this’ would heal me. Now he’s sitting in jail as a convicted felon. This mentality of ‘healing memories’ still happens up there.
These stories are so devastating.
Please keep doing what you are doing Chris.”
“Another thing - Fr. Dave did have a background in psychology. So he understood what he was doing and how unethical it was. He clearly just didn’t care. Training only counts for so much if you’re willing to abuse it and others won’t hold you accountable.”
“[Some of these stories are] interesting to me because I had been seeing a therapist who had her training and degree from FUS. When I finally opened up to her about my birth trauma from when my 3rd child was born, her advice was that I ‘needed to forgive the doctor’ who played a big role in my negative experience. Like the very first thing I need to do in order to heal from this experience is to forgive the male doctor who walked into my birth room, decided to take over as if my body wasn’t capable of being in control itself and ruined the entire birth experience for me. And I will supposedly feel better if I just forgive him. It was suggested that I write a letter to him (not one to actually send to the hospital, just for my own healing) so that I could move forward with the healing process.
It was in that moment that I realized she wasn’t trained to deal with something as complex as birth trauma and I ended up losing all confidence in her care and never scheduled another appointment.”
The following video was also shared with me by a brave survivor:
It’s important to note, in closing, that these problems are not unique to these types of Catholic schools. Rape and sexual assault are prevalent across society, and across college campuses of all types. What’s important to note, however, is that there are dynamics unique to these types of Catholic schools that contribute to the types of harms outlined above. If we want to move forward as a Church—and to truly act as the Church—we need to address these dynamics, hold both institutions and individuals accountable for these harms, and create a culture of change and healing, where those harmed are at the center of all efforts.
As a Church, we should be leading in these efforts. We should be at the forefront of lifting up the oppressed and the marginalized. We can do more. We must do more. But this requires taking a hard look at ourselves and taking accountability for the past, rather than waving it away. We need to integrate this history into our present sense of self and our vision for the future.
I was surprised by how hard this series of anecdotes hit me.
I went to one of these schools during the late aughts. Most of my experience was positive— I had professors that I adored, I made lifelong friends, enjoyed time spent exploring the area, brewed beer for class, went on service trips, took many academically rigorous classes.
I had some experiences that were tough, but normal. I had stress and anxiety. I went through a difficult break-up. Experienced exclusion from the "in-crowd" and struggled to adult.
All of this, however— the life-giving and the life-challenging— was paired with a particular expression of Catholicism that, for all its good, caused me a great deal of confusion and harm that I'm still deconstructing a decade or so later. Particularly damaging to me and many of my classmates was the way sexual morality taught and enforced around campus. Most of the moralism did not come from professors; most of it came from campus culture.
There were "modesty fashion shows." A FOCUS-sanctioned event included the men "going into spiritual battle" by praying outside a video-rental store because they rented out pornographic movies (A video rental store which was already about to close because... well, we all had computers and internet access.) While they did "spiritual battle," the women were asked to stay behind and "wait for them and pray." There was a Theology of the Body study group that used a lot of material that reinforced bizarre gender norms— men are initiators who mirror the words of Christ when he said "This is my body, given up for you;" women are recipients of that gift, mirroring the words of Mary "Let it be done to me according to your word." The pseudo-theology of "emotional chastity," suggested to my peers that we were wrong to feel sadness about our break-ups as though feeling emotionally connected to another human interfered with a relationship with God. In retrospect, it isn't hard to see the way rape culture was being disguised as purity culture. Women were both implicitly and explicitly blamed for the lapses in purity of their male peers. Holy women in Church history were lauded for their sexual purity more than any other virtue; a friend said the story of Maria Gorretti reveals it's better to die than be raped.
It isn't surprising, then, that when I experienced a sexual assault a year after graduation, I was ill-equipped to unpack and heal from my experience. My assault was not on campus; but the campus culture had so impacted my thinking that I didn't even have the baseline knowledge to recognize my experience as a rape (consent was not part of the way I was taught about sexual morality). I even confessed my rape to a priest as my own sin. I felt completely isolated and alone, because my interior shame at my "sin" was so deeply felt, my personal responsibility so profound, and my fear that I would lose my job in a Catholic institution so debilitating, that I didn't share my experience anyone for a long time.
I am not alone in this, clearly. And these examples are just the tip of the iceberg. I can't even begin to touch on the way the NFP teaching contributes to much of the collateral damage as well... the struggling young couples, the hurt mothers who had to give up their livelihoods and their health to difficult pregnancies, the patronizing misogyny that answers their struggles, and the flurry of bitter divorces that have shattered the illusion that this kind of sexual morality creates strong, Godly marriages.
I could go even further— about the complete lack of diversity of thought or voices in the theology and philosophy curriculums; about the toxic masculinity; about a pro-life morality that excludes every other life issue; about the rampant homophobia.
At any rate, this blog has made me both relieved and sad to see my experience was not unique.
Add Siena Heights University to that list. That school isn’t Catholic AT ALL. I know a student who tried to start a pro-life group there-one focused on not just abortion but also providing necessary resources for pregnant or parenting students. She almost lost her job with the university-she was a student and worked with Res Life I think. She went all the way up to the president of the University- who is a NUN- who turned down the group. She ended up going to the bishop of the dioceses in order to get the approval for the group. It took her months to get this group approved and when it did happen, people targeted her and the university didn’t care. The university also didn’t have a Chaplin for a year and basically no one attends on campus mass. It’s not a “Catholic” university and really needs to stop advertising as such.