Father Wild Asks Name Be Removed from Residence Hall
Dear Marquette community:We have blogged about Wild and the sex abuse scandal, breaking the story locally, and providing follow up coverage.
I wanted to share the letter below from Father Robert Wild, Marquette’s 22nd president and chancellor, requesting his name be removed from our newest residence hall, as well as my response.
Father Wild has requested that his name be removed because he regrets not using his authority to do more to protect victims and prevent future clergy abuse. We know that when we stand behind Marquette’s mission and Guiding Values, we have a framework to help us during difficult times.
May God help our Catholic community, both here at Marquette and throughout the world, come closer together to support victims of abuse and further the healing process.
Dr. Michael R. Lovell
Letter from Father Wild to President Lovell and Board of Trustees
Dear Mike and members of the Marquette Board of Trustees:
As a Jesuit, Catholic priest, I am filled with sorrow and abhorrence at any incident of abuse committed by a religious leader. While those feelings cannot atone for what people endured who have been sexually abused, I still want to express my regret for their suffering and for the terrible wrongs done by their abusers.
As Provincial Superior of the Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) from 1985 to 1991, I was invested with authority over all Jesuits belonging to that particular three-state region. During my six years in office, accusations of sexual abuse of minors were lodged against three of our members. Looking back, I would have handled certain aspects of those cases rather differently than I did then. The restrictive measures I thought quite sufficient to restrain the behavior of one of those priests, for example, proved in practice to be insufficient to do so. I very much regret that and apologize especially to those victimized for my mistakes in that regard.
In a recent letter to the whole Church, Pope Francis describes the sexual abuse of minors and other vulnerable people as something demonic and cites in that connection Matthew 17:21, where Jesus explains to his disciples, “This class of demons can only be expelled by prayer and fasting.” After much thought and prayer, and careful consideration, I have decided that one aspect of the “fasting” I should undertake is to formally request that Marquette University remove my name from our new residence hall complex. Therefore, after careful discussion of the matter with Marquette University’s leadership, I formally request that the University remove my name from the building that was recently named for me.
Robert A. Wild, S.J.
Statement from Marquette University President Michael R. Lovell
Marquette University’s Board of Trustees received today a thoughtful letter from Rev. Robert A. Wild, S.J., stating his request to have his name taken off of our new residence hall. I respect Father Wild’s decision as laid out in his letter, and the Board unanimously agreed to honor his request. We are in agreement with Father Wild that this is the right decision for both Marquette and survivors of clergy abuse. The residence hall, which includes Ray and Kay Eckstein Tower and Wells St. Hall, will be known as The Commons. We have tremendous respect for Father Wild and are grateful for his leadership as Marquette’s president from 1996 to 2011 and again from 2013 to 2014. Anyone who knows Father Wild understands that he values the Gospel message of love and forgiveness and we move forward together as a Marquette community in that spirit. We offer our prayers for continued strength and healing for all survivors of clergy abuse.
Evaluating WildWe were never a big fan of Wild, viewing him as easily manipulated. He was easily persuaded by the (dishonest) claim of the Gay/Straight Alliance of Marquette that they would do nothing to contradict Catholic sexual teaching. They have done little else.
He was easily persuaded by Wisconsin Indian chiefs to reject the nickname “Warriors” as offensive.
He was easily manipulated by a cabal at Marquette to hire a lesbian Arts & Sciences Dean (Jodi O’brien), then when local Catholics and the Archbishop got wind of it and objected, he withdrew the offer. Then when politically correct leftists on campus raised a ruckus, he started pandering to them, inviting a lesbian consultant to campus to give advice as to how to do that, and established the ill-fated Gender and Sexuality Resource Center.
Wild was, to be blunt, easily manipulated.
But on the other hand . . .
. . . Wild’s failure as Provincial Superior of the Chicago Province appears not to have been the result of ill-will, or mendacity, but rather the bland assumption that the abusive priest (one Father Donald J. McGuire) would follow orders. Wild gave the following charge to McGuire:
I ask that you not travel on any overnight trip with any boy or girl under the age of 18 and preferably even under the age of 21.But Wild naively left it up to McGuire to police his own behavior.
A brief from plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Jesuits seems to show that Wild should have taken the situation far more seriously.
But even after Wild left the post of Provincial Superior the abuse continued. According to the New York Times:
The province sent Father McGuire in 1993 for a psychiatric examination and six months at a treatment center in Maryland — but in the week before he was to report to there, he was allowed to conduct a retreat in Phoenix, where he molested another boy, the documents indicate. As late as 1998, the new documents show, the Chicago provincial wrote a letter of “good standing” for Father McGuire to allow him to minister in a diocese, stating that “there is nothing to our knowledge in his background which would restrict any ministry with minors.” As the reports of abuse accumulated, the Chicago leaders issued one set of restrictions after another on Father McGuire, finally, in 2002, saying he could minister only to nuns in the Chicago region. But none of these directives were enforced, the court motion asserts. Father McGuire was formally removed from the priesthood in February 2008 after a conviction in Wisconsin and after a federal indictment had been issued in Illinois.As we noted in our first post “Where this scandal is concerned, [Wild] looks no worse than many other Catholic clerics. But neither does he look any better.”
Wild ResponseWhen this case was first exposed in the New York Times, Marquette’s response was absurdly tepid. The university announced:
As a Catholic and Jesuit university, Marquette University fully supports the protection of any victims of sexual abuse. Next week, the Marquette University Law School’s Restorative Justice Institute annual conference is on the topic of “International Dialogue on the Clergy Sexual Abuse Scandal,” which will include discussions with both church officials and victims.That’s right. the university arranged a conference.
Wild’s current response, assuming it has not been forced on him by machinations of which we have no knowledge, is much more appropriate. Indeed, it looks like repentance and contrition commensurate with the sin — or at least, the best that can be done more than a quarter century after the offense.
Taking Wild’s statement at face value, we are inclined to think that God has forgiven him. We actually would not mind seeing his name on that dorm.