Policy on Abuse Cases Sought at Notre Dame
Grads Want School to Be Revered in How It Addresses Reports of Sex Abuse by Priests
Associated Press, carried in Indianapolis Star [South Bend IND]
May 6, 2003
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- A group of University of Notre Dame graduates say they want the school to become a model for handling cases of sexual abuse by priests.
More than a dozen Notre Dame graduates from across the country, some of whom say they were abused by priests while at the school, have formed a group that is seeking details on how the university handles abuse reports.
"Notre Dame has a unique opportunity to demonstrate moral leadership for the benefit of the bishops, religious orders and Catholics across the country," said Mark Serrano, a 1986 graduate who now lives near Washington.
Serrano says he was sexually molested from the age of 9 by a parish priest in New Jersey and now works as an advocate for other former victims.
Notre Dame officials are aware of allegations of misconduct against four priests who worked at the school, said Carol Mooney, a university vice president and member of a panel appointed to receive such complaints.
Mooney declined to identify the priests under investigation, but two priests with ties to Notre Dame have been accused in public in recent years.
One was the Rev. James T. Burtchaell, a one-time Notre Dame provost, who left the university in 1991 after an investigation into claims he had engaged in sexual misconduct while counseling male students.
At the time, Burtchaell said he "had behaved toward some former university students in ways that were wrong, and which I very much regretted."
The other is the Rev. Robert D. Huneke, a priest from the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y., who worked at Notre Dame in the mid-1970s.
Huneke was accused by John Salveson of Philadelphia, a 1977 graduate who said he was 13 years old when Huneke, a priest in his childhood parish in Long Island, N.Y., began sexually abusing him. The priest continued the sexual relationship while both were at Notre Dame, Salveson said.
Huneke died last May at age 62.
University leaders are discussing how they can help former students who report long-ago abuse, Mooney said.
James Muller, a 1965 graduate and a cardiologist in Boston, is a founder of Voice of the Faithful, a lay group started last year in response to the sexual abuse cases in the Archdiocese of Boston.
Muller said he believed the university was taking some positive steps.
"My hope is Notre Dame will have a policy that is so good that other Catholic colleges will adopt it," Muller said.
Salveson recalled a chance meeting in 1996 with the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, Notre Dame's president emeritus, aboard a train from Washington.
"I told him what had happened to me. He said, 'I wish you had come to me while you were at Notre Dame. That priest would have been removed the next day,' " Salveson said.
As Hesburgh left the train, Salveson said, he walked back and said: "If no one has said this to you before, I apologize."
Hesburgh said he remembered meeting Salveson and knew that an apology was the right thing to offer.
"I felt badly," Hesburgh said, "for the fact it had happened at Notre Dame."
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