Georgetown Panel to Explore the Role of Law and Lawyers in Hiding and Uncovering the Clergy Sexual Abuse Crisis

April 4, 2019

Former prosecutor, church attorney, victim advocate, and journalist to discuss legal dimensions of abuse crisis


As attorneys general across the U.S. investigate clergy sexual abuse, Georgetown Law and the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life are convening a public dialogue to explore how the legal dimensions of the clergy sexual abuse crisis have been central and remain critical.

While lawyers have played decisive roles in uncovering the reality and scale of the crisis, lawyers have also used the law to protect institutions rather than vulnerable individuals. This dialogue will ask how the law and lawyers have both positively and negatively addressed the crisis of sexual abuse and of leadership in the Catholic Church. Panelists will explore issues of protection and accountability, legal responsibility and representation, and the role of legal actors and Church institutions.

This dialogue follows a day-long private convening where survivors, advocates, and lawyers who have represented the church, governments, survivors and the accused will discuss the role of law and lawyers in the clergy sexual abuse crisis to date, and what best practices can be developed going forward.


Dean William M. Treanor of Georgetown Law will deliver opening remarks.

John Carr, director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, who has written of his own experience of the crisis, will moderate the dialogue among:

  • Margaret Graf, general counsel for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, graduate of Cornell Law School, and leader in the Archdiocese’s legal response to clergy sexual abuse
  • Tom Johnson, attorney at Gray Plant Mooty, former prosecutor and Hennepin County attorney, and the ombudsman for sexual abuse victims by the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office and the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis
  • Peter Steinfels, former religion reporter at the New York Times, former editor of Commonweal, and author of A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church in America
  • Barbara Thorp, former director of the Office for Pastoral Support and Child Protection of the Archdiocese of Boston, former social worker for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston, and a leader of the Archdiocese’s pro-life office.


Tuesday, April 9, 2019
6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.


Georgetown Law
Gewirz Student Center, 12th Floor
120 F Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001


Media interested in attending should respond here.