On April 7, Chicago media reported that the investigation of a Fenwick High School teacher accused of sexual abuse was “nearly complete.” The reporting added that a letter from school officials said they are “well prepared to take prompt and decisive action based on the findings and the facts.”
It has been almost three months and we have yet to hear a word from the school administration about how it plans to respond to the multitude of reports by Fenwick students of sexual abuse and inappropriate behavior occurring over decades of time.
On April 5, Jack Crowe wrote a column in Wednesday Journal that warned we shouldn’t “look to Fenwick and the Dominicans for justice. It’s not in their DNA.” He said they see sexual assault “as a public relations issue as opposed to a justice issue.”
Follow the money. Bad publicity leads to fewer students enrolling. The administration has a reputation and a funding stream to protect.
In 2017, I received a letter of apology from Fr. James Marchionda, prior provincial and member of the Fenwick Board of Directors for the abuse I experienced while a student at Fenwick in 1970. Through social media, I was able to confirm that I was not the only student abused by this priest, so I wrote Fr. Marchionda at that time not expecting anything but to make him aware.
He said in his letter, “I believe we are doing our best to serve those who have been abused and to prevent further abuse on our watch, as well as in the future.”
Really? Here we are five years later. What has been done to “prevent further abuse?” After the school went co-ed in 1992, what training was done with teachers and staff to prevent sexual harassment or abuse? How does Fenwick monitor its Title IX (sex discrimination) compliance? What education was done about appropriate touch, consent or how to report incidents of abuse?
Last but not least, what are the consequences for abusers and what are the plans for restorative justice for the many survivors?
The Catholic Church has proven itself totally and criminally incapable of policing itself. It will take third-party intervention to see any justice done. It continues to hide behind statute of limitation laws. At what cost to children will Fenwick continue to guard its precious reputation? When will we ever see this institution, and the church as a whole, held accountable for all the damage done over generations?
Paul McLennan, a former Fenwick student, now lives in Decatur, Georgia.