Wild’s final forum a fitting farewell

Father Wild’s last forum took place last week. Photo by Cy Kondrick / Cy.Kondrick@Marquette.edu

University President addressed abuse allegations, Fr. Pilarz, LGBT issues

University President the Rev. Robert A. Wild spoke on a number of issues this past Thursday night in his final open forum as president — notably, addressing recent allegations that Wild was involved in a cover-up of sexual abuse during the late 1980s and early ’90s.

Last week, new allegations emerged that Wild, along with other Jesuit leaders in Chicago, was accused of ignoring and/or concealing information on convicted pedophile the Rev. Donald McGuire during his six years (1985-’91) as provincial superior of the Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus.

Wild spoke with prepared remarks on the issue. He said as a Jesuit, Catholic leader, he was filled with sorrow by any situation in which a priest or church official abused a child.

“I’d add that I apologize (for anything) that I or any church leader did or failed to do, that ultimately resulted in the harm of any person,” Wild said in a more somber tone.

“As a Church community, we have a severe problem,” he added. “We have to address it and attain healing.”

Wild talked about policies that since have been established both in Chicago and during his Marquette tenure, including former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske’s Restorative Justice Initiative at the Law School. Geske, a distinguished professor of law, has done extensive work involving sexual abuse cases including mediation and “healing circles” that bring sexual abuse victims and priests together to hold dialogues.

Wild said he could not talk about specific aspects about the Chicago situation as it is an ongoing legal case.

“We cannot ignore the pain and suffering that good people have experienced because of this sexual abuse,” he said.

Another question posed was the eventual creation of opening a gender resource center on campus. Jack Howard, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences, asked about the progress being made toward opening the center, and Provost John Pauly said there will be such a center that should open in the fall.

“(It’s) not only support for LGBTQ students, but also (a place) to address issues of sexual violence, in a coordinated way,” Pauly said.

Wild was also asked about the College of Arts & Sciences dean search, which last year involved a highly-covered rescinded offer to Seattle University’s Jodi O’Brien. He said there have since been some revisions on the protocol of the search and that it will take place under incoming University President the Rev. Scott Pilarz’s watch.

While there were serious moments, the mood was often light during the 22nd president of Marquette’s final forum. Unfailingly, students speaking before Wild and the standing-room-only crowd in the Alumni Memorial Union thanked and praised Wild for his accomplishments over the past 15 years as the chief executive of the school.

Although Wild, joined on stage by Pauly and Senior Vice President Greg Kliebhan, fielded a number of touchy questions, he happily answered some softballs (Wild liked Big East Conference rivals UConn to win Monday’s NCAA Tournament final.)

For a significant portion of the hour-long program, Wild addressed the upcoming transition of the presidency, offering advice and the challenges he felt Pilarz will face.

His first piece of advice for Pilarz centered around getting to know the people on campus.

“He has two things to do: meet many people here, and learn the Marquette culture,” Wild said.

Kliebhan, who joined Marquette’s administration in 1976, said this has been the best of the three transitions he has seen at Marquette up to this point. Kliebhan also said he has been impressed with Pilarz’s involvement and visibility on campus, and said he “expects him to continue Fr. Wild’s tradition of engaging the students.

Wild also addressed the continually raising tuition. He said that, while it is not the ideal, it has been necessary in the current economy. He said Marquette will continue to look to extend large amounts of financial aid and that Marquette is among the better bargains when it comes to attending a university these days.