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Elated, Excited, Exhausted

Elated, Excited, ExhaustedPart of a growing national trend, Tufts religion experts are adjusting their comparative religion classes to examine the current crisis in the Catholic Church. Medford/Somerville, Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [04.25.03] When news of the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church broke last year, the nation was shocked as the world-wide institution came under fire. In the midst of the crisis, religion educators are struggling to address these issues in the classroom. At the forefront of a trend sweeping the colleges and universities across the nation, religion experts at Tufts are adjusting their courses to better address the current state of the church.

"For years, the Rev. David O'Leary, a lecturer in comparative religion at Tufts University, has offered an annual course on introductory Catholicism," reported The Boston Globe. "But this year, he decided to tear up his program and offer a new class: ‘Catholicism in Crisis.'"

O'Leary - the first Catholic priest to serve as University Chaplain at Tufts - says that educators have an obligation to discuss the issues related to the recent scandal in their courses.

"I'm thinking any course on Catholicism that I ever teach, these issues will have to be discussed," O'Leary said in a story that ran on the front page of the Globe.

The Tufts chaplain's class is also addressing other modern issues facing the church -- including women's ordination, authority and dissent, and homosexuality and priesthood.

Students are eager to discuss these issues - which affect not only the church as an institution, but the role of the church in the lives of individuals.

"I'm active in the Catholic community here at Tufts, and this was something I was paying attention to in the papers, and although it never affected my faith, I definitely did find it very disturbing," Tufts junior Robert C. Curry - one of the students in O'Leary's class - told the Globe. "And the course title was controversial, so it caught my interest."

Courses like O'Leary's are popping up around the country.

According to the Globe, the change in Tufts' curriculum is at the forefront of a growing trend among universities to develop new courses - and retool old ones - in order to properly address the crisis and the present state of the church.

"All around the country, and particularly in Greater Boston, academic scholars, especially in the fields of religion and theology, are rethinking their teaching and their research in light of the clergy sexual-abuse crisis," reported the Globe. "They are writing books, offering new courses, and hosting conferences that are bringing a new sense of relevance and edge to previously arcane and obscure fields."

O'Leary says the change is necessary.

"I don't think you can teach Catholicism any more without addressing these subjects," the Tufts chaplain told the newspaper. "If you teach Catholicism without talking about sexual abuse, you're whitewashing."


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