ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y., April 8, 2019 — The Franciscan Institute at St. Bonaventure University has canceled an academic conference on Franciscan reform and the sexual abuse crisis within the Catholic Church.
Intended as a conference for Franciscan scholars to discuss the tradition of reform and renewal in the long history of Franciscanism, the Institute has been challenged by local victims of abuse that no such conference is advisable if victims are not allowed to speak at it.
The Institute had spent months on a particular design and set of questions that were largely historical in nature, retrieving the elements of the Franciscan intellectual tradition that could shine a positive and healing path forward as Franciscans continue to help all people to heal.
However, an abuse survivor and advocate for victims claimed that a conference on abuse without victims speaking would essentially be a waste of time.
Fr. David B. Couturier, O.F.M. Cap., executive director of the Franciscan Institute at St. Bonaventure, agreed.
"I listened to the victim. I heard his deep concerns and decided to follow his advice that the conference we had designed was not helpful here in this diocese at this time. So, I decided to cancel the event," he said.
"I wish I could have rearranged the schedule, found new speakers, and provided for the new direction being advocated," he added. "But, with less than a week before the conference was to begin, it just wasn't possible."
The conference was scheduled for April 12-13.
The Franciscan Institute will continue to be an advocate for Franciscan justice, Fr. Couturier said.
"It saddens me that we could not offer some thoughts on Franciscan reform and renewal that might be helpful," said Fr. Couturier. "However, we fully understand and accept the position of abuse victims. We apologize to anyone who was inconvenienced."