St. Mary’s University welcomes Sister Nuala Kenny for Catholic Women’s League Annual Lecture
Sexual abuse by Catholic clergy is the greatest scandal of the modern Church. It has caused devastating, life-long harm to victim-survivors and their families and communities. It has resulted in the loss of trust in the Church as a place of holiness, care and justice, and has eroded the credibility of its leaders as disciples of a loving and merciful Jesus. For some, it has precipitated a crisis of faith in God as it has wounded bodies and minds and crushed souls. The Catholic Church is wounded and in need of healing.
To facilitate this healing, St. Mary’s University invited world-renowned doctor and medical ethicist Sister Nuala Kenny to deliver the 2020 Catholic Women’s League (CWL) Annual Lecture in Catholic Studies on “Healing the Church: Diagnosing and Treating the Clergy Sexual Abuse Crisis”. As a pediatrician who is also a Professor Emeritus at Dalhousie University, Dr. Kenny is very familiar with the devastating harms of the physical and sexual abuse of children and youth.
Among her many accolades, she was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1999 for her contributions to child health and medical education and she has received a Queen’s Jubilee Medal. As a Sister of Charity – Halifax for over 50 years, Sister Nuala is deeply committed to helping the Catholic Church heal from this crisis. She has been involved in this work since her 1989 participation in the St. John’s, Newfoundland, Archdiocesan Commission on Clergy and Clergy Sexual Abuse. She has authored two books on this topic, Healing the Church (2012) and Still Unhealed: Treating the Pathology in the Clergy Sexual Abuse Crisis (2019). Sister Nuala also served as an advisor to the CCCB Ad Hoc Committee on Protection of Minors (2014-2018) which produced “Protecting Minors from Sexual Abuse: A Call to the Catholic Faithful in Canada for Healing, Reconciliation and Transformation”.
The CWL Chair for Catholic studies is the university’s only endowed chair and plays a pivotal role in articulating the university’s Catholic mission both internally and externally. While the Chair is an academic appointment, it serves as an important liaison in bringing St. Mary’s to the community and the community to St. Mary’s.
Through the generosity of the Catholic Women’s League, the CWL Annual Lecture in Catholic Studies energizes discussions on campus around the Catholic Intellectual Tradition which informs our mission in bringing key stakeholders, from both the Catholic and ecumenical traditions, to the table. The CWL Annual Lectures in Catholic Studies are designed to engage the head (providing a source of intellectual leadership for the Catholic community), the heart (inspiring the community to connect with truth, beauty, and goodness), and hands (moving the community to engage in the work of social justice).
Collectively, the Friday keynote address and Saturday workshop were a critically constructive reflection on how we, as disciples of Christ, might make sense of what has happened in this crisis and respond both individually and communally. It provided support for laity and clergy who desire repentance and continual conversion to disciples of a loving and merciful God. The weekend was rooted in the “mind of Christ” and in trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to make all things new.