Alumni accept new Christendom apology, call for O’Donnell to resign

Christendom College says it has offered an apology to rape victims and their families. “We have failed our students,” said President Timothy O’Donnell.

But some alumni say that the statement is too little, too late, and that O’Donnell should resign.

“Timothy O’Donnell should resign as President of Christendom College,” said Greggory Gassman, class of 2010, on January 17.  Gassman has since been removed without explanation from the official Christendom Alumni group on Facebook.

Joe Wagner, class of 2011, also called for O’Donnell’s resignation.

“Dr. Timothy O’Donnell should step down as President of Christendom College. The new policies he has announced are good, but it is a serious failure of accountability that they were not in place 20 years ago,” Wagner said.

College does about-face in response to public pressure

It was less than a week ago that Christendom College responded to our articles exposing gross mishandling of sexual assault and harassment. Christendom at that time claimed our articles contained “misleading information and serious inaccuracies.”

But yesterday, a spokesman for the college said, “I want to extend my gratitude to Mr. and Mrs. Fisher for giving these women a platform to share their voices with us.”

The college never clarified what was inaccurate or misleading in our articles. It said that the administration “has ordered a thorough review of their policies and resources for cases of sexual assault and harassment” and that the college “has issued an official apology to the victims and their families.”

The college’s entire January 24th statement is as follows:

“WE WILL DO BETTER,” CHRISTENDOM COLLEGE EXTENDS SUPPORT TO VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AND HARASSMENT
College Executive Vice President Offers to Meet with Victims

Front Royal, VA (Jan. 24, 2018) – Following recent alumni accounts of administrative mishandling of sexual assault reporting at Christendom College, the administration has ordered a thorough review of their policies and resources for cases of sexual assault and harassment. The College has issued an official apology to the victims and their families, and has reaffirmed its commitment to ensure the people from whom its students are seeking assistance are equipped with training, resources, and the capacity to respond to a victim’s needs with compassion, knowledge, and the ability to help.

“We have failed some of our students,” said Dr. Timothy O’Donnell, Christendom College’s president. “I am grateful to each woman who has come forward with her story. We need to hear you and your experience. Disclosing abuse and its aftermath is painful and difficult, and it takes a tremendous amount of courage. To those students who have been harmed, I am deeply sorry. We will do better.”

Ken Ferguson, executive vice president of Christendom College, has offered to meet personally with each and every victim in the presence of a certified trauma counselor. Anyone who wishes to meet is welcome to bring her own support personnel as well.

“We invite these victims to come forward and be heard,” said Ferguson. “We value their insight on concrete ways we can make this campus as safe as possible for women. And we ask, if possible, for their forgiveness. I want to extend my gratitude to Mr. and Mrs. Fisher for giving these women a platform to share their voices with us.”

Additionally, the College has hired experts to review campus compliance with best practices in sexual assault and harassment. Christendom revised its protocols in recent years and is constantly reviewing these protocols to ensure they are effective when a student reports sexual assault or harassment.

“Since I arrived four years ago, I have thrown myself into improving campus life for the student body,” said Ferguson. “We recently established a new wellness initiative so that any student who needs these services has ready access to them. We’re expanding that initiative to include trauma counseling and support for Christendom students and alumni who have suffered sexual assault.”

Those seeking to meet are invited to reach out to Ken Ferguson at (540-636-2900) or by email at ken.ferguson@christendom.edu.

The statement  was originally only searchable through the Christendom website, and could only be found by using a direct link. It is now available on the site’s homepage.

Adele Chapline Smith, the first Christendom almuna and rape survivor to share her story with readers of this site, said she forgives O’Donnell and is grateful for the college’s stated intention to change. Smith said:

“From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank Christendom College and Mr. Ken Ferguson for an excellent first step in repairing the damage done to the women of Christendom and their families under the O’Donnell administration; it is both welcome and appreciated. I am disheartened that this was not their initial response, but I am open to further dialogue with the college and am eager to hear how the administration plans to implement these changes. I forgive Dr. Timothy O’Donnell for 25 years of negligence toward those women in the Christendom community who suffered sexual assaults.”

But Smith wants O’Donnell to resign for the good of the school:

“[W]hile I forgive him, as Catholics we know that true contrition involves amending one’s life – and forgiveness does not negate natural consequences. For the good of the school, for the good of the vision of Dr. Warren Carroll, and for the good of the generations of students that have walked across that graduation stage in the past — and will walk across it in the future — it is my firm belief that Dr. O’Donnell should step down from his position as President of the college, and that Christendom College should implement Title IX regulations to ensure a safe and transparent environment for all current and prospective students.”

Why now?

The college says it has already changed and will continue to change. It says it wants to hear from students so it can help them.

We ask: Why now? What’s different? Why is today different from last week? Why is today different from last year, or ten years ago?

Last year, Christendom billed itself as “Almost Heaven.” Today, Christendom is calling for a day of fasting for its sins.

The only thing that has changed is that two blog posts were published on the internet. A handful of young women had the courage to speak up and tell their painful stories in public. But their stories have been available to President O’Donnell for years.

Timothy O’Donnell has known about rapes for years

Today, the school is acting. New members of the administration pledge real reform. But Timothy O’Donnell already knew for years what the rest of the world knows today.

Long before the college apologized, O’Donnell knew that this anonymous student also says she was raped by a Christendom student; that he also got away with it; that he also was protected by Christendom professors. She says that Timothy O’Donnell knew and decided not to act.

The woman says in her letter, “The college knew about it. But REDACTED continued his education at the school his daddy helped found without any ramifications. The college allowed a sexual predator, a rapist, to walk the halls of that institution for 4 years without a single thing being done to halt his reign.”

O’Donnell received this letter in December of 2017. We have confirmed that it was addressed to O’Donnell and that it refers to Christendom.

Adele Smith and other critics denied entry to alumni group

The school said on Wednesday that it is interested in hearing from “each and every victim.” But Adele Smith, the survivor who forced the story into the public eye, has been denied entry into the official Alumni group on Facebook. She has received no explanation for the denial.

Her rapist, though, is a member. Other alumni have requested entry and have been accepted during the same time frame that Smith requested entry and was denied. Several alumni say they have been removed from the group without explanation after they shared Smith’s story.

Positive testimony welcome; critics silenced

Just days earlier, Tom McFadden, Vice President for Enrollment & Marketing, solicited stories from Christendom alumni on the official alumni group, which is moderated by Vince Christe, Assistant Director of Alumni and Donor Relations.

Jane Riccardi, an alumna of Christendom, then suggested in the group that former students collect positive stories into a file to promote the idea that Christendom is an unusually safe place that “promotes the dignity, inherent worth, freedom, and safety of all women on campus.” Riccardi said in an email that she “was hopeful to begin a constructive and helpful conversation.”

Shortly after stories began coming in, it became apparent to some alumni that the stories were not all positive.

“If someone unsympathetic gets hold of the link [to the page for testimonies], it’s all over,” said one alum.

“This is definitely a concern,” another agreed.

Riccardi responded, “Thank you for pointing this out. I’ve changed the privacy settings and will instead collect responses by email.”

Riccardi then collected the positive testimonies into a document called  A Letter about Christendom College Culture and emailed it to the Fishers, calling Christendom “[a] pocket of fresh air offering an oasis away from the sewage of the culture at large.”

As of Friday, January 19, the official alumni group included in its guidelines the rule: “[P]lease refrain from posting articles or engaging in discussions about topics that criticize . . . Christendom College.”

Several almuni have reported being thrown out of the Facebook group, apparently for violating this rule by discussing the articles detailing  Smith’s rape.

Christendom says it wants students to come forward and report sexual abuse, to tell their stories. Some alumni express deep skepticism that the same college that excluded unfavorable testimony from alumni one day will be open to hearing and acting on damaging testimony from students the next day.

More stories of rape are ahead

We are currently working on corroborating seven other stories of sexual assault of Christendom students, including students who are currently enrolled at Christendom. These reports were grossly mishandled by the administration that is still in office.

Title IX would require the college to collect and report data

In the North Virginia Daily, Executive Vice President Ken Ferguson said:

“[W]hen [Director of Student Affairs] Amanda [Graf] and I arrived on the campus we built and documented the current (policy) which Amanda and I believe meets the rigorous requirements of Title IX despite the fact that the college is one of the few colleges in the nation that doesn’t receive any federal money and is not under the auspices of Title IX.”

Alumni say they are grateful for Ferguson’s efforts, but cannot trust the school’s intentions until O’Donnell is held accountable for his failures.

Gassman said, “I hope [Wednesday’s apology is] sincere. Sadly I’m skeptical since the school went 25 years without opting into Title IX reporting despite numerous rape and assault allegations. Taking GI Bill funds during that time while insisting they take no federal funds takes real concentrated effort to avoid Title IX and its reporting provisions.”

According to the latest available tax returns, O’Donnell’s compensation from the college totals over $320,000.

O’Donnell considered the college helpless to punish likely rapists a mere seven years ago . Despite claims that the school voluntarily meets Title IX requirements, the school still does not collect or report incidents of sexual assault or harassment.

Positive: School no longer expels pregnant students while allowing fathers to stay

According to alumnus John Connolly on his Facebook page,

“Though supporters of the college assert that the college would never abuse its right to expel and that the failure to take action in the 2009 case [of Adele Smith] was a protection of fairness and justice, we must remember that the college for many years would expel women for the crime of getting pregnant out of wedlock. Fathers of these children were allowed to stay on campus, while the women were forced to pay back crushing student loans without a degree. This hypocrisy eventually was reformed… when the word started getting in the public eye.”

Several alumni note that the school no longer expels students who become pregnant, and indicate that it is one of many positive signs of change at the college.

Amanda Graf’s name consistently comes up among alumni and current students as a dedicated and tireless force for change.

Alumna Donna Provencher said, “Ken [Ferguson ] has come out swinging for the victims, and we’re grateful for his support.”

Smith said, “I applaud Mr. Ferguson’s new policies, and suggest the administration reach out to the Bishop of Arlington requesting His Excellency’s aid in reforming the campus culture, student life formation, and curriculum. I love Christendom College. Those who are standing up for victims also love Christendom College. I very much look forward to further dialogue with Mr. Ferguson about our next step forward. Christendom can and must become the gold standard among Catholic colleges when it comes to upholding the dignity of the human person and protecting victims of sexual violence — a place where graduates truly do go on to restore all things in Christ.”

There are good things about Christendom, current and former students say. Dozens of letters of support continue to arrive in our inbox, expressing deep love for the school and a trust in the administration’s desire to change.

We believe women, and we that means we believe the many, many women who have good things to say about their experience at Christendom. We have read every one of their letters, and there were many.

But their good experience does not negate the horrific experience of the victims, including Adele Smith, the anonymous blogger, the anonymous women in our second story, and the seven others whose stories we continue to research.  O’Donnell’s continued presence, and his continued refusal to take direct responsibility, is an insult to all of them.

***

The Christendom Advocacy and Support Coalition, a new public advocacy group for victims of sexual assault from Christendom, has made this statement:

The Christendom Advocacy & Support Coalition would like to personally thank Mr. Ken Ferguson for the school’s public apology to those women in the Christendom family who have been deeply wounded under the O’Donnell administration; for the rollout of bright new plans and policies going forward; and for taking survivors seriously and encouraging them to meet with him. While we would wish for the sake of the survivors that a response like this had been the school’s initial response, we are nonetheless deeply grateful for progress made.

If the school offers to cover the travel and lodging/childcare costs for these victims and their families to speak to Mr. Ferguson, that would be a very encouraging sign of confidence.

While this is not the end of the changes Christendom needs to make in its cultural attitudes and student life policies regarding sexual assault, mental health, etc., we are pleased to have open lines of communication with the college and see such a heartening and hopeful first step taken toward restoring all things in Christ.

On behalf of the victims, we are grateful that the school is taking direct action, thanks in large part to Mr. Ferguson and Ms. Graf, to review current measures and commit to better systems going forward. We hope to see soon what this looks like in terms of concrete details, and we maintain that compliance with Title IX guidelines is a critical additional step for the school to implement.

We would like to take this opportunity to encourage all of our supporters to personally reach out to Ken Ferguson (ken.ferguson@gmail.com; (540) 636-2900) to thank him for his support and for believing women.

When we know better, we do better. We must believe women’s stories, for our faith tradition depends upon belief in a woman’s story.

“People say, ‘What is the sense of our small effort?’ They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time.” –Servant of God Dorothy Day

St. Francis, pray for us.
St. Thomas More, pray for us.
St. Maria Goretti, pray for us.
Bl. Laura Vicuña, pray for us.
Servant of God Dorothy Day, pray for us.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us.

#BelieveWomen #RestoreChristendom #Instaurare

CASC offers a private support group. Those interested in joining may contact Adele Smith, President: adele.smith@casc.services or Donna Provencher, Vice President of Communications & Victim Outreach: donna.provencher@casc.services
Bridget Randolph is Vice President of Public Policy.

****

Image: the front of a flyer for Christendom College. The flip side allows that they “cannot exactly guarantee Heaven upon graduation from Christendom College,” but touts their impressive stats: “only 1 known apostate” among graduates, and “only 1 known divorce.”

The flyer is  echoed by sentiments in this article by Tom McFadden in Seton Magazine. McFadden has worked for Christendom since the year 2ooo. Photos used with permission.

 

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65 thoughts on “Alumni accept new Christendom apology, call for O’Donnell to resign”

    1. You’re kidding, right? They set her straight by making the entire conversation about her?

      No, this was never about Simcha, and most of the Remnant article speaks of little else, which by itself makes their attempt so disingenuous. Had she never so much as heard of Christendom College, the mishandling to which they have officially and willingly and totally-on-the-record confessed is the only matter of substance here. To do so still presumes the innocence of the accused, and calls upon the institution to act on the ideals which they purport to uphold.

      I invite you to read the account again.

  1. Just saying do not come back to this site. She is getting money from the traffic.
    Also Title IX does not apply to this school because it is a private college not run by government. And because it was off campus.
    Do some research fam.

    1. “Just saying do not come back to this site. She is getting money from the traffic.”

      It is not a big stretch that those who make use of goods and services render compensation to the service provider. In this case, it may bring you some measure of solace to know that the extent of compensation is not very much. And if it does not, then I will not be looking forward to a response. Quite alright with me.

      “Also Title IX does not apply to this school because it is a private college not run by government. And because it was off campus.”

      The Fishers are not alone. Many of the alumni who have raised concerns about the incident in question, and the surrounding issues, have called for the same thing. Read in context, it would appear to be a call for equal opportunity for the women studying at Christendom. This is elaborated upon in the two-part exposé.

      Which you know if you “do some research.”

      1. Yes, Christendom is not subject to Title IX. But this incident is raising the question of why Christendom so stubbornly clings to its “freedom” to avoid providing female students with a safe learning environment? Other Catholic schools, even conservative ones, follow Title IX because it’s a good standard. Why not Christendom?

  2. Isn’t anyone concerned that the victim was saying that the police told her nothing could be done about the crime? Isn’t rape a crime? If someone drives to Skyline Drive and is raped, nothing can be done about it unless they go to Christendom College and can get the administration to take action?

    If Christendom failed to help someone, that of course needs to be addressed…but I won’t pretend I know enough to make that judgment from reading a couple of articles on the topic. I am not going to take a position unless I have enough information firsthand, because the accusation is very serious. But, as I’m thinking about this, it occurs to me that being expelled from a college is not much of a punishment for committing the crime of rape. I mean, unless the man is in jail, he is free to rape more people no matter where he is. The people at his previous college might be safer, but people at another town or college might be in more danger. If someone is raped and the law can do nothing to bring the man to justice, then that is a very sad scenario for all of us. If I were in a situation where I had been raped, and then the authorities told me not to bother trying to bring the case to court because nothing could be done, I would think it more worth my time to blog about that, and try to make the proper people aware, because that affects a whole lot more people than would be affected by the failure of a college to remove a student.

    I’m not trying to take sides – I am just trying to be honest in saying that it comes to my mind that the fact that this man is not in jail makes me wonder if a) there was enough evidence to prove he deserved punishment b) if so, why wasn’t the victim’s family more aggressive in trying to get the law to take this man off the streets? If there was enough evidence to expel him from college, there should be enough evidence to get him in jail.

    1. M.E.:

      From what I remember in the two-part exposé, the victim waited too long to report it, which is not uncommon, given the humiliation that some face, and the prospect of reliving the event during a trial. But there were also supposed to be sanctions against the male student. What the school failed to do is the major part of the story.

      It has also been reported that the perpetrator is allowed on the Facebook page administrated by the Alumni Association and that the victim, and others like her, are not.

    2. If you want to understand as you say you do, there is ample information in the internet about how trauma effects reporting of rape, the obstacles in getting authorities to take a report and gather evidence, and statistics regarding the minuscule number of rapists that receive any sentence even when accused. That a Catholic college should do better than typical law enforcement is a very modest expectation. That post-2002 a Catholic institution has failed on such a scale is inexcusable. We know now how it plays out when instead of offering compassion for victims, we circle the wagons to protect the institution. Holding the institution accountable is the best way forward.

  3. I write as the father of two Christendom students from years ago, one (a daughter) who was Valedictorian of her class and another (a son) who received the Vander Woude athletic scholarship, to say a couple things:

    First, both those kids loved (and still love) the school, and both their parents were very happy with the education they received there and their experience on campus while receiving it.

    Second, the laws of human nature are not suspended at Christendom or anywhere else on this earth. Which means that Stuff Happens.

    I feel for Adele Smith. I believe Adele Smith. But to think that her terrible experience that took place miles from the campus is somehow an indictment of Christendom is absurd and preposterous.

    As for Dr. O’Donnell, if he somehow had knowledge of Adele Smith’s account long before she brought it to light, if he participated in a cover-up of what he believed to be a sexual crime, if his thought processes were influenced by the status of the (alleged) perpetrator’s father, if he were aware of and somehow complicit in the cover-up of the similar victimization of a handful of other Christendom women, then fine: he failed miserably and should resign. Tomorrow. Today if possible.

    However, lacking hard and compelling evidence pointing to such a failure on O’Donnell’s part, this becomes an exercise in reckless accusations, a witch hunt even, pushed by people who may have their own agendas and motivations.

    Therefore, I’m waiting…and keeping an open mind. But I do need to see the evidence.

    However, one way or the other, whatever O’Donnell’s responsibility (or lack thereof), the fact is that both my kids got a wonderful education at the school, love the school, and found their fantastic Catholic spouses there. Fantastic children followed. It seems like that should count for something…

    1. Gerard:

      “I feel for Adele Smith. I believe Adele Smith. But to think that her terrible experience that took place miles from the campus is somehow an indictment of Christendom is absurd and preposterous.”

      No. sir. It is not. I will explain.

      Historically, Catholic schools at all levels — grade school, high school, and beyond — have had a long-running practice of staking their reputation on the behavior of their students, whether on or off the property. I know this from my own experience in Catholic high school nearly half a century ago. (Yes, I am that old.) It is also the policy of a Catholic college that acts “in loco parentis” with its students, whether that Latin maxim appears on their official seal or not.

      Given such an established sphere of influence, the sexual assault of a female student by a male student, — on campus, across the street, across town, anywhere — would, therefore, fall within the purview of the school’s administration and (by their own admission) code of conduct.

      “I feel for Adele Smith. I believe Adele Smith. But …”

      … stuff happens … right?

      But I should hope you never meant to be so cavalier. Surely you must concede that there are consequences to actions. An institution that holds to a code of honor, and expects the same of their students, must by definition expect the same of its own administration. The latter has admitted for the record that they failed, following a detailed account of such malfeasance on their part, the challenging of which they could barely defend for more than a week.

      Because you see, sir, there was a lot more “stuff” happening here than a trip to Lovers Lane gone horribly wrong. Stuff happens. Stuff has consequences. With a student in the back seat of a car. With a professor in the boardroom of a college. Is it unreasonable to hold the latter to the same standard as the former?

      1. Forgive me, sir, but you have not “explained” anything.

        You intimate that Catholic schools should answer for the “behavior” of their students.

        Good heavens. It’s a wonder that there are any Catholic schools still in existence – depending, as you suggest they do, on the wonderful behavior of their students and responsible, as you suggest they are, for their bad behavior.

        I mean, seriously, if you collect 100 human beings in a room, even 100 human beings who attend Catholic schools, even 100 human beings who attend Catholic schools of the highest orthodox Catholic caliber, well, I hate to break it to you, but at least a handful of them will be bad apples.

        And here’s another revelation for the ages: the bad apples are responsible for their own behavior – not the institution, not the weather, not the town, not Dr. O’Donnell, not even God. Primary responsibility goes to the bad apples themselves.

        You say there are consequences to actions.

        Well, yeah.

        But consequences should be connected to responsibility. A person, even one in authority, who happens to be in the vicinity of the party who carries out the actions is not willy-nilly somehow responsible for those actions. Rather, the individual who performs the actions is responsible. If otherwise, then we’re all in a boatload of trouble.

        Now, if hard evidence indicates that a particular person or persons in authority have failed, if he (or they) are shown to have been negligent or worse, then, heck yeah, he (or they) should be held accountable and should be appropriately penalized.

        However, evidence is necessary. A direct line between the offensive behavior in question (and its aftermath) and the negligent response. Not stories. Not insinuations. Not suppositions. Not a couple blog posts. Evidence. If you propose to shatter a man’s reputation and ruin his life, some pretty compelling evidence is in order, no?

        Until such evidence is produced, I will maintain an open mind…and withhold judgment. Meanwhile, I stand by every word of my initial comment.

        1. Gerard said:

          “However, evidence is necessary. A direct line between the offensive behavior in question (and its aftermath) and the negligent response. Not stories. Not insinuations. Not suppositions. Not a couple blog posts. Evidence. If you propose to shatter a man’s reputation and ruin his life, some pretty compelling evidence is in order, no?”

          You realize that Christendom is probably sitting on that evidence?

          1. OK, so your position is that just on general principles we should lynch O’Donnell based on what some judge to be the “probability” that Christendom is hiding evidence, though we don’t know that’s the case nor precisely what the evidence in question might be?

          2. Gerard said:

            “OK, so your position is that just on general principles we should lynch O’Donnell based on what some judge to be the “probability” that Christendom is hiding evidence, though we don’t know that’s the case nor precisely what the evidence in question might be?”

            I don’t think I said “we should lynch O’Donnell.” In fact, I know I don’t.

            But Christendom is probably sitting on a lot of documentation. There are bound to be a lot of internal communications (see virtually any recent coverup scandals), and accusers don’t have a fraction of what is probably out there.

            I think O’Donnell should probably leave, just to give Christendom a fresh start, and Christendom should bring in an impartial outside auditor to go through their files and write up a report on Christendom’s history of handling of rape accusations, including recommendations on what to do going forward and who to fire.

            That’s how organizations behave when they genuinely want to come clean and do better. There are many available models for this–and no, it can’t be done internally.

          3. What is the model you have in mind, Amy? Please be specific and cite examples. Then please explain how an independent “impartial” — good luck with that — auditor set loose to rummage through the school’s personnel files will not fall afoul of the rules and laws governing violations of privacy, leaving the college open to a multitude of lawsuits.

          4. Gerard said:

            “What is the model you have in mind, Amy? Please be specific and cite examples. Then please explain how an independent “impartial” — good luck with that — auditor set loose to rummage through the school’s personnel files will not fall afoul of the rules and laws governing violations of privacy, leaving the college open to a multitude of lawsuits.”

            Here’s an example of a religious college with a large sexual assault coverup problems that did the independent audit:

            https://www.baylor.edu/thefacts/index.php?id=931987

            “On September 2, 2015, a Special Committee of Baylor University’s Board of Regents engaged Pepper Hamilton LLP, to conduct a thorough and independent external investigation into the university’s handling of cases of alleged sexual violence. As a result of this independent audit, Pepper Hamilton recommended a series of structural and administrative changes and in the summer of 2016, the Sexual Assault Task Force was designed to implement these changes.

            “Objectives. The Sexual Assault Task Force was formed to accomplish the following objectives:

            “Follow the directives set forth by the Board of Regents of Baylor University
            Implement administrative and structural changes to areas within the Baylor University community based upon Pepper Hamilton’s recommendations
            Monitor and provide regular progress reports to the Executive Council”

            So, this is not a novel problem and it’s not insoluble.

        2. “You intimate that Catholic schools should answer for the ‘behavior’ of their students.”

          I intimate nothing, sir. I say exactly what I mean. I mean exactly what I say.

          There is an objective meaning attributed to words. I endeavor to choose mine with great care. That is why I did not say that the College should “answer” for the behavior of their students. Rather, the students are supposed to “answer” for their own behavior as de facto representatives of the College while enrolled there. There is a distinct difference. That both students and their betters are held to a certain standard does not change that.

          For a Catholic educational institution to have ever held a student to a code of conduct is not open to conjecture. It is history. It is measurable fact. It was the standard to which I and approximately 1100 other students were held, at Archbishop McNicholas High School, in Cincinnati, Ohio, in the early 1970s. I was there. I read the handbook each year. It said the same thing each all four years.

          There is also a student code of conduct at Christendom College. It is described in the Fishers’ account. If it were not, much of that which you appear to have glossed over would not have been written, and the College’s response would have been far less contrite than it was only days ago.

          It might be helpful to read it again. It is a complex tale, to be sure. The incident in question is only part of it. There is more, much more.

          1. Several fine paragraphs, David, amounting to not very much. Certainly not a substantive response to my points.

            Again, I’m waiting to see concrete evidence linking O’Donnell to either a cover-up of the assault of Adele Smith or a decision to protect, for whatever reason, her assailant.

            If such evidence is produced, then I will join you and the others in the demand that O’Donnell and any other responsible parties be held accountable.

            Meanwhile, though I do believe Adele’s account, I am not ready to participate in a lynch mob formed on the basis of accusations, insinuations, and suppositions.

            And whatever else happens, the notion that the incident in question is related to a supposed “bubble culture” at the school, which after all was the thesis of Simcha’s first two posts, is, in my view, absurd and preposterous on its face.

          2. “Again, I’m waiting to see concrete evidence linking O’Donnell to either a cover-up of the assault of Adele Smith or a decision to protect, for whatever reason, her assailant.”

            You can wait until the cows come home, mister. Save your indignation for those who finally went on record after denials were not enough. Then you can ask them to show you the evidence. They’re the ones who owned up to it, they’re the ones who can tell you about it.

          3. David L. Alexander said:

            “You can wait until the cows come home, mister. Save your indignation for those who finally went on record after denials were not enough. Then you can ask them to show you the evidence. They’re the ones who owned up to it, they’re the ones who can tell you about it.”

            Right.

          4. Translation: David has no evidence. Thanks for your honesty.

            If you happen across any, my man, be assured that I will enlist in your cause. Until then, I will wait to see if it materializes in Simcha’s next installment.

          5. Gerard:

            In many states, including Virginia, eyewitness testimony can be sufficient evidence in a civil case. Given your due diligence for “evidence,” you might want to tuck that away for when (not if) you need it later, especially since …

            “Translation: David has no evidence. Thanks for your honesty.”

            Never said I had any. Never said I had to. Never made any claims that I couldn’t prove. And in case you’ve missed the obvious, the administration of the college confessed to its negligence. Got that? They screwed up. They went on the record to admit that they screwed up. They publicly and officially thanked Simcha and Damien Fisher for pointing out the many ways in which they screwed up.

            Translation: Guys like you don’t have Simcha Fisher to kick around anymore.

  4. I have never heard of Christendom expelling someone because they are pregnant. Built in a Catholic world where being pro-life, and therefore supportive of mothers, I would expect Christendom to be supportive. In fact, I thought I knew of more than one pregnant woman attending classes at Christendom. There are no sources cited for this statement. I would like to know when and where, please.

    And since the school moved forward with great strides prior to Simcha’s articles, I think calling for O’Donnell’s resignation is just vengeance.

    1. Until about thirty or forty years ago, it was not uncommon for a female student to be expelled from a Catholic school (usually a high school) upon becoming pregnant (and yours truly is just old enough to know). The basic premise of such a decision was less to punish the student than to avoid scandal. Since then, with the rise of the pro-life movement, and the startling realization that a male student might have been just as responsible, if less visible, their remaining in school became more common.

      And as for this …

      “And since the school moved forward with great strides prior to Simcha’s articles, I think calling for O’Donnell’s resignation is just vengeance.”

      Not. Even. Close.

      Without casting the least bit of doubt on the administration’s sincerity, they have “moved forward” for about a week, hardly long enough for “great strides,” and following a steadfast refusal to move anywhere, and what amounts to years of dysfunctional attitudes, culminating in accusations against the Fishers which they knew full well were wrong.

      The call to the good Doctor is not one of vengeance, but an appeal to do the honorable thing.

      The atmosphere that was cultivated at Christendom, that which enabled the subject of this recent exposé, occurred on his watch, and with his cooperation, indeed, under his directive. He was certainly not alone, but he was where “the buck stops.” There is no malice in this, only a reminder of those ideals which Christendom has claimed to champion for more than forty years. Only Timothy O’Donnell can teach the ultimate lesson, that those who represent the ideals of Christendom College are exactly who and what they pretend to be, even when it is inconvenient.

      It is not supposed to be convenient. Neither was Calvary.

    2. Christendom used to expel pregnant women. I don’t have names and dates, but if you call the admin and ask, they may actually tell you that it used to be a policy. Alumni advocated for this to change, and the college did. Which goes to show that the college does sometimes change … when we demand it to.

  5. I really like Ken Ferguson. Since the day he came to the college, he’s wanted to change things and I feel like he couldn’t change too many things since his hands were tied by big money donors.
    However, the college needs to change many things. I’m not going to hate on the school because there’s good things about it as well, but the fact that it claims it wants to “restore all things in Christ” and then tears apart those who do not fit the “perfect cult Catholic” scenario boggles my mind. We’re all human and we’re all messy. Let’s stop pretending every student is a perfect cookie cutter

    1. Let’s stop pretending that being a predatory rapist=not”perfect cookie cutter”. That very cavalier attitude towards rape has caused a lot of grief in the Church.

  6. 1) There has been not one SHRED of evidence that Dr. O’Donnell is at fault (the victim didn’t even come forward for TWO years – did you expect the college to be omniscient and deal with the accused, even though the accuser never came forward???). 2) Your “facts” are lies (for example, your statements about the alleged rules at Christendom are lies; the “fact” that a professor brought up the situation in his moral theology class – I went to the school 25 years ago, and that same GENERIC situation was used by this professor back then. So how do you explain that???). 3) Your journalistic integrity is less than credible – not only did you push forward with this piece without comment from the college (I mean, seriously, this is NOT a publication with any sort of deadline – what was the rush??), but your writing was completely sloppy, adding details further bashing Christendom College that did not even have to do with the story at hand. Shame on you. Your real motives are obvious to all who know Dr. O’Donnell and Christendom College. This much is clear from the continued hatchet jobs on Christendom College. You need serious prayers.

    By the way, this flyer NEVER went out. But then, who is surprised that you are perpetuating yet more lies.

      1. JC:

        It would appear that Simcha Fisher’s weblog time stamps its comments according to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), once known as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), an international standard dating to 1880 for setting time zones using the Greenwich Observatory near London, England. It is five hours ahead of Eastern (USA) Standard Time, and eight hours ahead of Pacific (USA) Standard Time. It makes perfect sense for a venue with an international audience, or just because you feel like it.

        When you read too much for your own good, you tend to know these things.

    1. The flyer did go out. You just didn’t happen to receive it. It was sent to dioceses around the country encouraging them to support Christendom.

      How can you claim the flyer “never went out”? What’s your proof? Have you been monitoring the Front Royal post office for 40 years?

      1. Yes, JC seems unable to see the hypocrisy in that they’re doing the very same thing they accuse the “messenger” of doing.

        JC believes their own statement(s) can stand on their own merits just because JC has spoken.

    2. I vaguely remember seeing very similar ads, possibly in the New Oxford Review in the late 1990s.

      The flyer text is very familiar to me.

    1. Now you’re talking! McFadden has done *much* more harm than Dr. O’Donnell may have. As a Cdom alumna, I’ve often wished that I knew the College before McFadden’s reign of obnoxiousness began.

  7. SImcha, you ask the question why now? Likely it had to do with threats to withdraw sponsorship and/or donations by corporations and/or alumni. As they say, “money talks.”

  8. I love Christendom College. I always have. Every year on Saint Paddy’s Day, they sure know how to party. I have friends there among the students, and I’ve met and have spoken at length with some of the excellent faculty. Had I a grandson or granddaughter, I would send them there (after my granddaughter was sufficiently trained in Krav Maga).

    All that being said, as the process of transformation proceeds apace, there are at least two things the College can stop doing right this damn minute.

    One at a time.

    ”Her rapist, though, is a member. Other alumni have requested entry and have been accepted during the same time frame that Smith requested entry and was denied. Several alumni say they have been removed from the group without explanation after they shared Smith’s story.”

    First, it is safe to say that the alumni association can now dispense with the sucking-up strategy in currying favor with the administration. Failing miserably to preserve the status quo proved a failure with the latter. The former will not fare much better. (I would say they have … oh, about a week.)

    “Image: the front of a flyer for Christendom College. The flip side allows that they ‘cannot exactly guarantee Heaven upon graduation from Christendom College,’ but touts their impressive stats: ‘only 1 known apostate’ among graduates, and ‘only 1 known divorce.’”

    Second, if any lesson can be derived from the Gospel account of the Good Shepherd, it is that bragging rights about the ninety-nine who remained faithful did not matter to our Blessed Lord, and should not matter with the administration (especially with the prospect of discovering more than one of each, which is a distinct possibility). Granted, it is not a current marketing strategy. It should never have seen the light of day, to begin with.

    1. There is a single alumni association associated with a specific organization of undergraduates and alumni. Otherwise there is no incorporated alumni association. The alumni page is run by the college for the alumni. So there are no alumni as you unfortunately put it “sucking-up”.

      1. Leigh:

        I was referring to the organization described in the story, as was obvious. They are described as “official” in the aforementioned account. No, that does not matter, yes, they are alumni, yes, they are sucking up, and yes, they can stop now.

  9. I’m wondering what the date on this flier is. The McFadden piece you all link to clearly has more recent stats, and the McFadden piece explicitly says that Christendom rejected the slogan on this flier as a marketing strategy. I dislike the flier, but I would like to know for sure that (a) it was actually a flier they chose to use and (b) what the date is on it. I think sometimes in this discussion the distinction between older Christendom policies and environment (like the no-longer current PDA rules mentioned in the first article) and newer has gotten lost — and I don’t think that is fair. Not that newer is by any means perfect, but it seems very clear that student life was making real strides in a good direction before any of these pieces were published, which I think is important to acknowledge. If this flier is old/wasn’t widely used, it seems unfair to use it here without clarifying that.

    1. It’s a real flyer which was sent to dioceses for their support. To the best of my knowledge, it’s about three years old.

        1. There’s a photo of the flyer. The address on it was cropped out, because the person didn’t want to publish their address to the whole internet, but I’ve seen the original.

          Where’s *your* proof? You’re calumniating Simcha.

  10. “Unless you can point your finger at the man who is responsible when something goes wrong, then you have never had anyone really responsible.” — Hyman George Rickover, Admiral, United States Navy (1900-1985)

    Elsewhere in his address where this quotation is found, the late Admiral underscores the matter of honor in acceptance of responsibility.

    Honor. It is a characteristic of knighthood in the Middle Ages, the very flower of era of Christendom.

    There is no ill will required, indeed nothing but the best of wishes for Doctor Timothy O’Donnell and his family, to do the honorable thing by stepping down as President of the College. Such would be a noble act, and an ultimate lesson to students past and present, in the true character of Christendom, by the institution that bears that name. They can say in the loudest voice to date: “We are exactly who and what we claim to be.”

    There is no more room for posing, posturing, spin control, or any of the usual face-saving exercises that characterize a bureaucracy. There remains only doing the right thing.

    1. Demanding that Dr. O’Donnell resign is ridiculous. This is not in the league of Cardinal Law’s or Cardinal Mahoney’s actions. Get a grip. You’ve got to get past your “Christendom insulted me years ago” grudge and get some proportion. Or therapy.

      1. Kate:

        I would not describe my call as a “demand,” nor need it be in the “league” of anyone else’s actions. It is an appeal to the virtues he would purport to represent. I explain my basis for this, and how even his best interests would be served. If I were in his position, I would do exactly the same.

        (When did I ever say that “Christendom insulted me years ago”? I was never even a student there.)

  11. Well good. Mission sort of accomplished. Buuuuuuuut…

    “[a] pocket of fresh air offering an oasis away from the sewage of the culture at large.”

    I remember that it took years of a good priest encouraging me, not to see the culture at large as “sewage” ready to engulf my family. It’s amazing how good it is for the soul to be able to breathe fresh air again in the culture at large. As soon as it happens the soul begins to be able to find *virtue* everywhere. Sometimes the sheer amount of virtue to be found is intimidating. I used to think Catholics were in an entirely different category, and didn’t even need to be judged next to the “culture at large”.

    p.s. I can’t help but be curious about the “apostate”. What on earth did he do to earn that grand distinction? My imagination is running wild! I hope the apostate weighs in.

    1. Between you and me, there are a LOT more apostates than just one. Every graduating class seems to have a couple, plus surely there are more who don’t feel like mentioning it to all the Christendom networks. No divorces in our class that I know of, but I know of several in other classes.

      I leave it to your own judgment whether McFadden just doesn’t keep up with graduates as well as he claims and really only knows of one apostate, or he made up one apostate because he thought it would be more believable than none.

      1. Sheila, this is what I came down here to comment. I can think of 3 off the top of my head from Christendom. Another is in jail for the death of a child in her care.

        And MY small Catholic college certainly doesn’t know that I’m an “apostate”. Why would I tell them that?

        1. Maybe the apostates just need to read a couple of good books by authors their parents called heretics. “The Holy Longing” is an excellent start.

      2. Well–I suppose they would think I’m an apostate for reading (Fr.) Ronald Rolheiser, but I can’t resist quoting him here. So Apropos to their idea of the world being a sewer:

        “Likewise, apostolic community is not a group of persons huddling in fear or loneliness–‘you and me, against the world’–as is sometimes seen when two frightened persons marry each other or when small sectarian groups form because of shared fear.

        In both John’s gospel and in the Acts of the Apostles, we see this kind of false community among the early disciples before they receive the Spirit. They are described as ‘huddled in a room with the doors locked, out of fear.’ In that state, they are physically together, under one roof, in the same house, but not a real community. Ironically, after the Spirit descends upon them at Pentecost, they burst forth from that room, go to different parts of the world, and some never see each other again, but have genuine community.

        Apostolic community is not had by joining others who share our fears and, with them, barricading ourselves against what threatens us. It is had when, on the basis of something more powerful than our fears, we emerge from our locked rooms and begin to take down walls. As Henri Nouwen so well describes it: ‘When the Spirit descended on the disciples huddling together in fear, they were free to move out of their closed room into the world. …But when they had received the Spirit, they became a body of people who could stay in communion with each other’…

        Apostolic community never occurs when a few people gang up against the world.”

        and

        “Church is not about a few like-minded persons getting together for mutual support; it is about millions and millions of different kinds of persons transcending their differences so as to become a community beyond temperament, race, ideology, gender, language, and background.”

        The priest who helped me work through my fears was the confessor to a lot of homeschooling families. He cautioned me saying something like, “So often, people fear what can be found in the world, when we should be more afraid of the walled-in sins and deficiencies that we keep behind barricades.”

        1. This is unfair. When they say “apostate” they mean what the Church means – a Catholic who renounces his faith, usually embracing another faith or claiming to be an atheist. They don’t mean lapsed Catholics or cafeteria Catholics or “liberal” Catholics. I agree that most apostates aren’t going to announce it the Catholic community; they usually slip quietly away.

          1. Well, I would say that the real tragedy is when a person slips away based upon a false impression of what the Faith really is –about a God who waits at the end of the dusty road waiting for his lost son. It is about love unto death and resurrection. Some people seem to favor the bad news over the good news, and then are surprised with the outcome. A God that smites other people is fine by them. I wouldn’t call their student an apostate, I’d call them misled.

          1. Sentimental mush, but beautiful sentimental mush.

            Yes, God is love. God’s love is offered to all.

            As for being fine with God smiting those who reject his love, or reject the moral law that embraces his love, well, Anna Lisa’s argument is not with anonymous “those,” but rather with Jesus, the Son of God.

            No seriously. Read the Gospels and get back to me.

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