President’s Office Awards $35K Grant to Study Pastors' Reaction to Sexual Abuse Scandal

Dr. Katy Lichon, Dr. Monica Kowalski, and Fr. Joe Corpora, CSC, will explore how Catholic pastors have reacted to the clergy sexual abuse scandal with the support of a $35,000 grant.

The grant is one of 11 awarded as part of the University’s response to the abuse scandal. Lichon, the director of the English as a New Language and Catholic School Advantage programs, will work with Kowalski and Corpora to survey pastors, particularly those with parish schools, in The Impact of the Church Sexual Abuse Crisis on Parish Life and Catholic Education: Pastor Perceptions, Responses, and Recommendations for Practice.

The research involves a mixed-methods study with two phases: an online, large scale survey, followed by qualitative focus-group conversations exploring what can be done now and research-informed recommendations for future practices.

“What sets us apart is we are focused on Catholic schools,” Lichon said. “If we look at ACE’s historical work with pastors, we believe they play a key role in Catholic schools and Catholic education. We have a responsibility at this University to leverage our resources to contribute positively to these discussions and move things forward.”

In many ways, pastors are on the frontlines, confronting disillusioned parishioners and witnessing the subsequent repercussions of the scandal in their parishes. “We’re trying to get to the heart of the impact here in the U.S. in our churches and schools,” Kowalski said. “We are trying to figure out how pastors have responded proactively and also understand how it’s impacted their own ministry and their parishes and schools. Have they noticed changes in school’s enrollment, in parish giving, mass attendance?”

“Whether it is the relationships we have with the school pastors, our understanding of Catholic education, our researching abilities; we have this responsibility to share educated information, and we are uniquely qualified to do so,” Lichon said. 

“I have been privileged to work with the School Pastors' Institute over the past ten years. We have welcomed more than 1,000 pastors from almost every archdiocese and diocese in the country,” Corpora said. “I'm hoping that the relationships that we have developed over the years with the pastors will help us with this all-important research."

Kowalski said, “We seized this opportunity to contribute to the discussion around this important issue in our Church. The sense of mission, that we are charged as a Catholic University to have a voice in this conversation. We wanted to help advance understanding of what is happening here in the hopes that we can work for reform.”

Sponsored by the President’s Office and administered by Notre Dame Research, the University offered $1 million in grants to support research addressing various aspects of the crisis and its aftermath. Of the 11, two grants were awarded to teams affiliated with the Institute for Educational Initiatives. In addition to this study, Dr. Kristin Valentino, Dr. Jen Lefever, and Dr. Kati Macaluso were funded for Evaluating the Efficacy of Child Abuse Prevention Programs in Catholic Elementary Schools.