Ave Maria President Criticized for Defending Pope

September 10, 2018

Jim Towey, president of Ave Maria University, has been criticized for defending Pope Francis against accusations that he knew about sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church and failed to act, the Naples Daily News reported.

Towey released a statement in August that characterized the accusations against the pope as a “rift between Pope Francis and some conservative members of the church hierarchy,” and suggested that Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, who has criticized the pope, “may still be smarting from the Holy Father’s decision to remove him from his prominent position as head of the Holy See’s highest ecclesiastical court.”

Towey has since apologized and removed parts of the statement. He said he supports an investigation into allegations of abuse but remains supportive of the pope.

Steve Ray, a former member of the Ave Maria Board of Regents, resigned because of Towey’s remarks. A spokesperson for the university confirmed Ray’s resignation but told the Naples Daily News that the Board of Regents was honorary and not a governing body.

A priest, Father John Paul Echert, condemned Towey's statement and said he would no longer recommend Ave Maria University to students and parents unless Towey issued a formal retraction. A group of 70 alumni also wrote Towey calling for a retraction.

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