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LMU Leads Jesuit Response to Catholic Church Scandal Through Art

Awaiting visitors, an attention-grabbing transparent confessional booth stands confined to the middle of the floor. Inside the booth, a child’s chair occupies one side, and a bed of nails to kneel on dominates the other. To the right, blood-red curtains enclose communion dresses and altar boy vestments levitating a couple of inches from the ground. The final section, composed of a pitch-black room, uses only lights nestled inside tiny prayer pillows to guide you.


The art exhibit “Confess,” by Trina McKillen, takes on the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal from the child’s perspective. The show was brought to the Laband Art Gallery in mid-January with the hopes of creating an open conversation on campus regarding sexual abuse and what that means for the LMU community.


Initially, the exhibit was suggested to K.J. Peters, Director of the Irish Studies Program, by Finbar Hill, the Honorary Consul General of Ireland. After visiting the artist’s studio, Peters agreed to bring the exhibit to LMU because he believed it would stimulate campus conversation. He hoped we would “begin to ask questions that in the past were seen to be forbidden.”


Peters knew that this exhibit would be essential and would need a creative space to convey the impact he had in mind. This is why he turned to Karen Rapp, Director and Curator of the Laband Art Gallery, to collaborate with the artist and bring the exhibit to realization.


When Rapp visited McKillen’s studio, she described the exhibit as “haunting in a way… that is both critical and respectful.” She also believes that “giving a voice to victims is the credo” for Jesuits, and therefore should be showcased at a Jesuit institution.


Peters and Rapp acknowledged that this exhibit had to be endorsed by the Jesuit community due to its sensitivity. They asked Father Deck, a priest at LMU, to review the show and possibly support it. Deck then turned to Father Dempsey, a priest with a background in art history, who confirmed that the exhibit was respectfully worthwhile to bring to campus.


When Peters and Rapp learned of “Confess” in the summer of 2018, LMU had not formally acknowledged the Catholic Church crisis. Rapp explained how fortunate the exhibit’s timing was, as she had not anticipated the release of the lists recounting priests all over America who had been accused of sexual abuse. She was also unaware that LMU Administration would release an email in December 2018 recounting the priests they had employed with sexual abuse accusations.


The LMU communities’ response would be crucial to the exhibit’s success, and since its debut, many have responded positively. Having an exhibition that showcased the Catholic Church’s most significant problem facilitated a safe place to have difficult conversations and reflect.


Devin Costano, a freshman at LMU, said the university’s endorsement of this exhibit was “a good segway into bringing the subject to campus.” Fiona Bertic-Cohen, a sophomore at LMU, noted that she was “pretty impressed with the school to send out an email and to stand up like that.” Costano and Bertic-Cohen agreed that LMU featuring “Confess” is one of the major art galleries reflected well on LMU’s morals as a Jesuit institution.


Bertic-Cohen also hinted that this exhibit could start the conversation at other Jesuit institutions as well. While McKillen’s display has only been shown at one university so far, Rapp said, “ideally, if another Jesuit university… like Boston College” picked up the exhibit, it could make an even more massive impact.


Source List:

·  Karen Rapp- Director and Curator of the Laband Art Gallery

o   Email: karen.rapp@lmu.edu

·  K.J. Peters- Associate Professor for English and director of the Irish Studies Program

o   Email: kevin.peters@lmu.edu

·  Fiona Bertic-Cohen- Student

o   Email: fberticc@lion.lmu.edu

·  Devin Castano- Student

o   dcasta12@lion.lmu.edu

Hi! I'm a Senior political science major and peace and justice studies minor at Loyola Marymount University. I grew up overseas in Shanghai and Singapore but now live in Houston, Texas. Currently, I am studying at the Washington Center and working as an intern for the Department of Defense. My main interests include photography, exercising, and snacking on any new snacks from Trader Joe's!
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