August 31, 2018

Dear Franciscan University Family,
Like so many of you, I have been shocked, angered, and saddened by the recent Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report and the reports about Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. My heart goes out to the victims, so many of them young children, who endured the pain and suffering of sexual abuse and violence at the hands of priests and religious only to have their trauma compounded by the failure of Church leaders—apparently from pastors in parishes to the Holy See itself—to appropriately address the issues.

In praying for the victims, I felt moved as a Franciscan friar, as a priest, and as the president of Franciscan University of Steubenville to apologize to all victims of sexual violence, especially anyone who may have been subjected to abuse by any member of the Franciscan University family. I did so in my homily, before the students, faculty, and staff, at the Opening of the Semester Mass, but I ask forgiveness again in this letter of those who did not attend that special Liturgy.

Our prayers of repentance continued at an all-campus Holy Hour in reparation for sins committed by abusive clergy and bishops as well as for the healing of their victims and reconciliation within the Church. It was edifying to see so many of our faculty, staff, and students praying together for these intentions. Our prayers combined with thoughtful actions will lead us all to healing and reconciliation.

It is my belief that we have an obligation to determine if Franciscan University has complied with the applicable legal and reporting requirements when allegations of sexual abuse have been made in the past. While the University investigates every report that is brought to its attention and encourages reporting to the civil authorities, I have initiated, with the support of the Board of Trustees, an outside review of records pertaining to past allegations of abuse. Husch Blackwell LLP, a firm specializing in Title IX compliance and sexual abuse and violence, will review records pertaining to past allegations of abuse. The report will be delivered to the University’s Board of Trustees by January 2019.

Physical and sexual abuse is a serious crime. Abuse of any kind is counter to God’s call and the teachings of Christ. Franciscan University strives to provide a learning and living environment free from all forms of sexual violence—but like every human institution, Franciscan is comprised of flawed individuals. If you are aware, directly or indirectly, of anyone who may have been harmed by a member of our University family, I ask you to let us or the police know so we have the opportunity to address the situation.

There are two primary ways to raise any concerns you may have regarding these matters. If you would like to make a confidential and anonymous report, you can do so through EthicsPoint (844-521-7816). If you would like to speak to someone at Franciscan directly, you can contact:

John Pizzuti
Title IX/EEO Coordinator
Franciscan University of Steubenville
Human Resources Department
1235 University Blvd.
Steubenville, OH 43952
[email protected]
(740) 283-6238

You can also contact the Steubenville Police Department (740) 282-5353. No matter how the report is made, the matter will be investigated promptly, fairly, and confidentially.

Abuse has no place on our campus and strikes against the core of the University’s Catholic and Franciscan values. I invite you to stand for integrity and truth with me in these troubling days, and take to heart Christ’s exhortation and our theme for this year—“Be not afraid” (Matt. 14:27)—as we seek to grow in holiness as the Body of Christ.

In Christ and St. Francis,
Father Sean O. Sheridan, TOR
Franciscan University of Steubenville