Conference at Carlisle church to examine abuse crisis in Catholic Church

By Tammie Gitt
July 29, 2019

Victims of clergy sexual abuse and their family members react as Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro speaks during a news conference about the grand jury report that was released last August.

Nearly a year after Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro released a comprehensive report on clergy child sexual abuse, an organization dedicated to education will hold a conference looking at the crisis.

Hosted by the St. Gabriel ministry of Saint Patrick Roman Catholic Church in Carlisle, the conference will examine the causes of the crisis and learn what is being done to promote healing and justice for the victims.

The conference, “Pro Vita 2019: Healing the Wounds in the Body of Christ,” will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 9 at Saint Patrick Church, 87 Marsh Drive.

The day begins with a light breakfast buffet and registration at 9 a.m., followed by keynote speaker Dr. Massimo Faggioli of Villanova University. Faggioli will take questions from the audience then, after a coffee break, join a panel that includes retired Pennsylvania State Police Capt. Janet McNeal, who is the safe environment coordinator for the Harrisburg Diocese, and Carlisle-based clinical psychologist Dr. Jerry Mock. The panel will be moderated by Col. Celestino Perez, a professor at the U.S. Army War College.

The panel discussion will be followed by a lunch from Dickinson Catering. After lunch, participants may stay for optional small group discussions.

Registration for the event is $10 and can be made at the website Those planning to attend should register by Aug. 5.

“It’s obvious to many of us that the attorney general’s report had a dramatic impact on the church, on the laity, and we concerned Catholics decided that we should do something about this in terms of getting more informed and getting involved and debating what should be done about it,” said Gabriel Marcella, co-organizer of the event.

There is a lot of confusion, misinformation and, sometimes, no information at all about the problem including how grave it is, how extensive it is, whose responsibility it is and what its causes may be, Marcella said. The goal of the St. Gabriel ministry is to help people better understand what the problem is and what potential solutions exist.

“We believe, as members of the laity, we have a moral responsibility not only to talk about this but also to support change and reform,” he said.

The annual conference is one of the key activities for St. Gabriel, which also hosts an online library to address issues concerning the sanctity of human life.

“We’re an educational group, and we examine ways in which human life is currently being respected or not,” said co-organizer, Angela Smith. “We tend to look for gaps in public knowledge which other organizations are not addressing.”

Smith said the conference is not for Catholics alone because everyone can learn something from the well-known, visible systemic problems of the Catholic church.

“We hope that people from all faiths and no faith at all will come,” she said.




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