Harvard to Explore role of religions in Child abuse Healing and Prevention

In 2016, Jennifer Wortham wrote a letter to Pope Francis about her family. She told him about her brothers who as young boys had been abused by their parish priest, the devastation that this wreaked on their lives and on the entire family and how learning about the abuse led her and her mother to leave the Church.

Two days after she faxed the letter to Rome, Wortham was invited to meet Pope Francis. “It was a brief meeting, but one that I will never forget. He met me with sincerity and humility, remembered details from my letter, and gave both me and my brother a blessing.”

As an expert in public health, Dr. Wortham wanted to share with others the combination of her clinical knowledge of child sexual abuse and her personal faith. In April, these two areas of her life are coming together in a landmark global conference: Faith and Flourishing: Strategies for Preventing and Healing Child Sexual Abuse.

This interfaith and interdisciplinary program will be held from April 8-10, 2021, in collaboration with the Pontifical Commission on the Protection of Minors (TutelaMinorum), the Catholic Project at the Catholic University of America, and Harvard Divinity School, the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University. The symposium will bring together health care and public health providers, religious and spiritual leaders, and lay leaders of diverse faith traditions from all over ther world in order to explore best practices for providing a holistic approach that integrates psychological and spiritual care into the prevention and healing of childhood sexual abuse. This program will provide a forum for communities to deepen their collective awareness of the unique physical, mental health and spiritual needs of those who have been victimized by childhood sexual abuse, and to identify and develop strategies to address this serious public health problem.

The program will be held online in hour-long modules, and there will be opportunities for participants to engage with one another in language-specific groups. The keynote speaker is Rev. Dr. Denis Mukwege, 2018 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate who was recognized for his efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict. As a gynecologist, Dr. Mukwege has treated tens of thousands of women who were victims of sexual violence. Cardinal Blaise Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, will also be presenting at the event, as well as Msgr. Stephen Rossetti of The Catholic University of America and Thomas Tharayil, who is the Victim Assistance Coordinator for the Archdiocese of Chicago.

This event will promote the ongoing effort to establish April 8 as a World Day for Prevention and Healing from Child Sexual Abuse. We invite all members of the media, health care professionals, religious leaders, policy makers, educators and those working in the criminal justice system to recognize this day and register for this landmark conference. Participants who complete the program will receive a certificate of attendance from the Human Flourishing Program, at Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science.

Registration for this symposium is free and open to the public.