Preventing and Responding to Clerical Sexual Abuse
Georgetown is deeply committed to preventing and responding to clerical sexual abuse and to protecting the most vulnerable among us. Our community has and will continue to be built on care and trust, as well as accountability and action.
As Fr. Arturo Sosa, S.J., Superior General of the Society of Jesus, shared at a gathering of Jesuit colleges and universities:
“Universities bring about cultural change. The call to build a culture that protects the vulnerable is an opportunity for us to engage in practical, long-term work in this important aspect of fostering reconciliation and justice, and providing the conditions for integral human flourishing.”Sosa, Arturo, S.J. “The University as a Source of Reconciled Life.” International Association of Jesuit Universities Conference. Sanctuary of Loyola, Azpeitia, Spain. 11 July, 2018
Georgetown has an important role, as a Catholic and Jesuit institution, in promoting a culture of safeguarding vulnerable people and creating a context in which the abuse of power can be identified and eliminated.
“This is a moment when we know that more is required of us. As a community, let us proceed together, let us discern together, engaging in this work of transformation, working for a ‘cultural change’ that will ensure the safety and protection of all our people.”President DeGioia in 2018 on the role of the university in addressing challenges, including the clerical sexual abuse crisis.
Allegations Against J. Donald Freeze, S.J.
On June 11, 2021, President DeGioia wrote to the community to share actions the University is taking after a former undergraduate student reported experiencing deeply troubling and unacceptable behavior by the late J. Donald Freeze, S.J., which occurred more than 30 years ago. This behavior—which involved non-consensual kissing and touching—was particularly egregious due to Fr. Freeze’s role as both a member of the clergy and as our former Provost. Georgetown University expresses its deepest apology and has revoked Father Freeze’s honorary degree as well as all other university-sanctioned recognitions. The University has also continued to strengthen our communication and relationship with the Province to ensure transparency and information-sharing between our institutions.
Other alumni have come forward to report similar experiences of abuse. We wish to acknowledge the courage of alumni in coming forward and to express our deepest sorrow in light of the experiences that they have shared. The University continues to support survivors and those impacted, including alumni, through the work of our Title IX office. Individuals interested in learning more information, including how to be connected with resources and supports, may contact a Title IX Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We encourage all members of our community to report sexual misconduct and use the resources of the University to obtain support.
Individuals can also report sexual misconduct by a Jesuit by contacting the province’s victim advocate at email@example.com.
Persons who are unsure about whether they want to report may contact a confidential counselor.
Georgetown has resources in place to support members of the University community, including our alumni community, who have experienced or wish to report sexual misconduct, including clergy abuse. Resources and supports include connections to medical care, safety assistance, confidential counseling, and Title IX interim supportive measures. Additionally, off-campus resources are available.
Individuals interested in support may contact the University’s Title IX Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the University’s Online Resource Center at https://sexualassault.georgetown.edu/get-help/resourcecenter/.
Relationships Involving a Power Differential or an Abuse of Power
For more information on relationships involving a power differential or an abuse of power, please visit https://titleix.georgetown.edu/power-differential/.
President DeGioia charged a Working Group of the Board of Directors to address the allegations against Fr. Freeze and advance Georgetown’s work with the regional province of the Society of Jesus (now the USA East Province) which assigns Jesuits to serve the Georgetown community. The Working Group, in collaboration with an alumnus, has helped to strengthen our communication and relationship with the Province to ensure transparency and information-sharing between our institutions.
We also continue our response to the clerical sex abuse crisis, hosting public convenings and conversations that build awareness and supporting research into the effects of clerical sexual abuse on survivors and how to improve screening and assessments of candidates for the seminary.
Relevant University Messages
A Message from President DeGioia, February 2019
Report by the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus, December 2018
Individuals who are interested in learning more about the Clergy Sex Abuse crisis and the ongoing work in this area are encouraged to review the following resources:
Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors: The Dynamics of a Survivor’s Perspective
Listening to the Voices of Survivors co-hosted by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University and the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science. It was co-sponsored by Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, Office of Mission and Ministry, and the Georgetown Law Office of Mission and Ministry.
Lifting Up the Voices of Female Survivors of Clergy Sexual Abuse: Listening to the Voices of Survivors co-sponsored by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs; Initiative on Catholic Social Thought in Public Life; Office of Mission and Ministry; and Georgetown Law Office of Mission and Ministry at Georgetown University with the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science and Awake Milwaukee.