Psychological Health of Priests – an interview with S. Joulain

Psychological Health of Priests - an interview with S. Joulain (Radio Vatican)

Recent events in the Catholic Church in France, but also in other countries such as India or the United States, have been marked by several priest suicides. A progressive awareness is emerging in the church of the need to pay greater attention to the psychological fragility of priests and religious in a context of social and media pressure which can be a source of exhaustion. Psychological support cells have been set up in some dioceses and more and more seminaries are introducing psychologist interventions and sometimes even personalised accompaniment in their courses to help the seminarians identify their own limits even if it means interrupting their journey. The challenge is also to help the future priests to face the psychological difficulties of the people for whom they will be responsible for their souls. Father Stéphane Joulain, a member of the Society of Missionaries of Africa, is also a psychotherapist. He explains to us this morning how the Church is trying to develop psychological support for its ministers of religion by helping them in particular to find a realistic balance in their relational life.

Please note that the interview is in the French language.

The crisis of abuse: what conversion for the Church?

The crisis of abuse: what conversion for the Church?

Father Stéphane Joulain was to animate an evening at the Centre Sèvres on Thursday 19 March on the theme “The crisis of abuse: what conversion for the Church? “as well as a study day on Saturday 21 March, entitled “The word against abuse”. Stéphane Joulain, is a White Father, he is one of the specialists on the question of sexual abuse in the Church. He recently published Combattre l’abus sexuel des enfants (DDB, 2018). Having been unable to intervene because of the measures of confinement, he proposed a text to us; for which we thank him very warmly.

Warning : The article is in French.

Protection of minors is not about witch-hunt (Joulain)

Protection of minors is not about witch-hunt (Joulain)

One year later, Fr Stéphane Joulain, a psychotherapist, speaks to Vatican Radio’s Olivier Bonnel about the outcome of the meeting, what has improved, and what still needs improving. He says that straight after the meeting there was a “period of silence”, in which Bishops’ Conferences around the world received documentation and the Presidents of Conferences “shared with their brother bishops what they experienced”. Now, he continues, we have entered a “new phase”, and “we can see that Bishops’ Conferences and dioceses are taking measures”. We are now in the “time for action”, he adds.

Read the full article on the website of Radio Vatican

Audit on Protection and prevention of abuse

Audit on Protection and Prevention of abuse

A small group of confreres mandated by the General Council met in Rome from 12-14 February to carry out an internal audit of our procedures and protocols for the protection of children and the prevention of abuse. Our first policy for the protection of children and vulnerable adults from abuse during ministry dates back to 2008. It has been regularly revised to give the 2016 version that we currently have. The General Council has therefore asked to be able to assess the progress of the implementation of this policy before making a new revision. In order to do this, in the next two years leading up to the next chapter this group of auditors will visit all the provinces to evaluate this work. Following this, a report and concrete proposals for amendments to the current policy will be presented to the General Council and to the Provincials? Good practices are those that are evaluated and improved. Transparency and accountability are the indispensable pillars of a good protection of the most vulnerable.

ICMA-IC Formation on protection

Session sur la protection des mineurs et des personnes vulnérables

From 17-24 September 2019, our confrère Stéphane Joulain gave at the Catholic Missionary Institute of Abidjan (ICMA) a final training session on the protection of minors and the prevention of sexual abuse. This session had 34 participants, students from the last years of formation of ICMA’s partner or founding institutes, but also nuns and other lay people. Also participating, members of the new Centre for the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Persons (CPM-PV) of ICMA. This Centre was inaugurated this year and will offer training and awareness in the parishes and dioceses of Ivory Coast. The director of this new centre, Sr. Solange Sia, co-hosted the session with our confrere. Members of this new centre also include two other Missionaries from Africa, Father François-Xavier Bigeziki as psychotherapist and trainer, and Father Bonaventure Mashata as a resource person. Starting next academic year, the session will be offered by the CPM-PV team and ICMA trainers. Good luck to them all. Here are some pictures of the presentation of the certificates that are jointly offered by ICMA and the Centre for the Protection of Children (CCP) of the Gregorian University of Rome.

Interview of Stéphane Joulain

Last January, Stéphane Joulain conducted a training course on the fight against child sexual abuse for the ecclesial staff of the diocese of Bordeaux in France. On this occasion, he gave an excellent interview, in French!

As a reminder, Stéphane Joulain is a psychotherapist and a member of the Society of Missionaries of Africa (White Fathers). He has been working on this issue for over fifteen years, accompanying victims and participating in the treatment of sexual assault offenders in Canada. He teaches in Rome and Africa on the prevention of sexual abuse.

Spiritual control and abuse

Spiritual control and abuse

A JCD PRODUCTION/KTO 2018 COPRODUCTION – Directed by Jean-Claude Duret
Documentary of 18/05/2019. 


Today, the thirst for the absolute is strong in a Western world that has lost the foundations of faith. This can lead some to meet manipulative personalities, or even to fall prey to narcissistic personalities who divert the quest for God to their advantage. Sometimes even real systems of control are being put in place. The mechanism of mental control can lead to many abuses, including spiritual abuse, and can cause serious psychological injuries. Yet, for millennia, a treasure of wisdom has existed in monasteries where those who devote their lives to the quest for God have marked out the dangers of this quest. The experience they transmit to us today is indispensable to our discernment, whether we are believers or not. This documentary is meant to inform and educate a wide audience of the possible dangers of spiritual research.


Ivory Coast: Centre for protection at ICMA

A Centre for the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Persons was opened within the Catholic Missionary Institute of Abidjan, ICMA, in Côte d’Ivoire on 23 March 2019. This initiative responds to Pope Francis’ call to provide more protection for children against sexual abuse.

Our confrere, Stéphane Joulain, gave several sessions on the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Persons to ICMA students.

Read the article – in French – of Marcel Ariston BLE, of the French-Africa service of Vatican-News. Or read below a quickly-made translation into English.

Read also – in French – from the French daily LaCroix Africa.

The building that will house the Centre for the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Persons is part of the Catholic Missionary Institute of Abidjan, ICMA, in which many seminarians and priests from various religious congregations are trained. The blessing and inauguration of the building took place on Saturday, March 23, 2019, after the Eucharist presided over by Father Luc Kola, Chairman of the ICMA Board of Directors.

Listening to today’s cries

Father Pierre Claver Yessoh, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Abidjan, who represented, on this occasion, the Archbishop of Abidjan – Cardinal Jean Pierre Kutwa – , declared in particular: “This centre comes at the right time for all that we live in our Church. To have a centre of this magnitude in the Archdiocese of Abidjan is an opportunity for all God’s people.

The direction of the said centre is entrusted to Sister Solange Sia of the Congregation of Our Lady of Calvary, a doctor in spiritual theology. She says she welcomes this mission in the readiness to listen to Christ who asks us to be “listening to the cries of today in order to be able to give a response based on the Gospel”. According to Sister Sia, the centre will deal, among other things, with studying the risk factors of the commission of abuse against minors, but also with the care in case of abuse. Other modules, she assures, will mainly concern the accompaniment of people but also the question of prevention in order to avoid children being exposed to delicate situations.

Training actors for a new world

For Father Hermann of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary, a student in his third year of theology at the Catholic Missionary Institute of Abidjan: “By setting up this centre for the protection of minors and vulnerable people, the formation house enters into the vision of the Church which is to train actors for a new world who could respond to current challenges”.

Brother Joseph Soulib of the Don Orione Congregation, also a student at the Catholic Missionary Institute in Abidjan, believes that this centre will “make it possible to understand what is called abuse of minors. Then, as a pastoral agent, know what methods can be used to prevent children from being abused. This centre will be a testimony that priests are not those who offend, but rather those who defend and protect children.”

Church and paedophilia: a story of a shock day

It is in his diocese of origin this time that our confrere Stéphane Joulain shares his expertise, much appreciated, with priests, religious and lay people involved in the diocese. The article below is taken from the newspaper “Ouest-France” of 22 March 2019. Its journalist, Thomas Heng, had been invited to the conferences and general assemblies. This post is reserved for Missionaries of Africa for copyright reasons.

The Vicar General of the Diocese of Nantes, François Renaud. | OUEST-FRANCE

170 priests and lay people flocked to a training session on Wednesday in Nantes on the struggle against sexual abuse. No conventional speeches. For Catholics, the emergency is declared.

On Tuesday, in Rome, Pope Francis refused the resignation of the Archbishop of Lyon, Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, sentenced to a suspended six-month prison term for failure to denounce sexual assaults on minors.

A few hours later, 1,500 kilometres from the Vatican, 170 priests, deacons and lay missionaries participated in a day called “Let us fight together against paedophilia in the Church”, a sensitive and painful subject at the diocesan house in Nantes.

“Sexual abuse crisis”

The diocese, in a spirit of transparency, has accepted our presence. We were afraid of a certain “purring”. On the contrary, here, there is no tripping speeches, no oratory precautions, no convolutions.

Putting iron in the wound to empty the abscess of the “sexual abuse crisis”. The intervener from Rome, Stéphane Joulain, missionary priest, psychotherapist trained in criminology, knows how to do it. He is a specialist in the fight against paedophilia. “Solve the problem by allowing the priest to marry? Putting a woman in a pedophile’s bed has never solved the issue.” The tone is set.

“For many, he notes, the synonym of “priest” has become “paedophile”. The Church has been trying to resolve these issues since…. 3rd century.” At lunchtime, he says, “If you always apply the same solution to the same problem and hope to solve it, you’re not far from crazy.”

First, therefore, we must get rid of ancestral reflexes. “When a priest is implicated in sexual abuse, parishioners worry about his morale rather than about the victim,” laments one religious man. Let’s reverse the look. “Catholics are a little obsessed with… forgiveness”, sums up, lapidary, Stéphane Joulain. In other words, forgiveness is “a path”. Not an automatism.

A long way sometimes. We are listening to the story of this 87-year-old woman, who waited to see death coming, to finally be able to express her wounds. For eighty years, she carried alone the burden of an aggression from her first communion. A shadow rises, leaves the room in tears. “Things are coming up…”, slips a participant.

Talk, talk, talk. Stéphane Joulain is annoyed by another reflex observed in the parishes: the protection of the institution: “Sometimes, we transform the victim into an enemy! But the scandal comes from those who committed these abuses! Not by those who relay them.”

Last but not least, a question comes up in the room: “The media, they exaggerate, don’t they?” “Without the journalists, we would still be sweeping the dust under the carpet,” replies the speaker.

At the nicotine break, in the corridors, a priest from the south of Nantes clutches: “Sometimes, we worry more about the institution than about the Gospels.” Around him, A la Grâce de Dieu, François Ozon’s film, devoted to Father Preynat’s abuses, is making a lot of good talk.

Freeing up speech, the starting point

In the face of abuses, the Church would have been wrong to manage “individual situations”, a little like fuses, to protect the general building. “It was the theory of the rotten apple, isolated cases,” continues Stéphane Joulain. “But the current crisis reveals that there is something rotten in the basket. And even at the top of the basket.”

A way of saying that solutions require a collective awareness, the “supervision” of all, even if it means cutting back on the “trust” traditionally granted to each person. In short, a shared responsibility, including bishops.

But be careful not to buy words. Free speech is the starting point, not the arrival point. “If you think it’s over next year, you are getting completely mistaken!” warns Stéphane Joulain. “We must change, in depth. We must go through a phase of purification of the Church, learning to work with the victims.”

“It shakes their faith”

On the ground, it is ensured that the crisis does not divert the faithful from the Church. “But many, including some of the most solid, say that it shakes their faith,” admits the Vicar General, François Renaud.

In the audience, there is still concern about “the decrease in enrolment in summer camps or catechesis”. And, above all, of this “generalized suspicion” that weighs on priests.

After the observation, drafts of solutions

How can we “make the Church a safe place?” Stéphane Joulain invites us to improve the formation of priests. The duration of the training at the seminary is at least six years. “When a seminarian only wants to be in contact with children, without the ability to develop relationships with adults… Attention! »

In parishes, you should never let a rumour run around: “You must investigate and make the truth!”

Strict work is also required on the “premises”. “Closed rooms where no one can see anything from the outside should be banned. The same goes for catechesis: if an animator sticks posters on the windows, what does that mean?”

Until in the confessional, transparency and prudence prevail: “In Notre-Dame de Paris, the confession takes place in a glass aquarium. In the eyes of all. So what? It is a time when the person reveals his or her emotional vulnerability. Some may abuse this fragility.”

Thomas Heng,
Ouest-France du 22 mars 2019

Download here the pdf in French.

A look back at the meeting of the Provincials in Rome

Recently, at the Generalate, the meeting of the General Council with the provincial superiors and the two sections took place. Two confreres attached to the general services – Stéphane Joulain for the integrity of the ministry and Andreas Göpfert for JPIC – addressed them. Here is a summary of their interventions.


Stéphane Joulain : The provincials were able to listen and discuss with Fr. Benoît Malvaux, General Procurator of the Company of Jesus, invited by the General Council. The subject of his conference was “the preliminary inquiry”. This conference was also given to the Safeguarding Delegates during their last training in Rome who took place in November 2018. So, Provincials and Safeguarding Delegates have received the same information. This preliminary inquiry precedes the canonical process in case of allegations of behaviour against the sixth commandment by a cleric on a minor or a vulnerable adult. The provincials were able to ask Fr Malvaux other canonical questions. His competence and numerous examples have made it possible to address these difficult and delicate questions in a very practical and serious manner.

Andreas Göpfert: On February 13, 2019, there was a JPIC-ED working session. For one hour and a half, the General Council, the Provincials and the Section Delegate Superiors met with the coordinator of JPIC-ED, Fr Andreas Göpfert. The first part of the meeting was devoted to the reading of some signs of the times and the interpellations heard during the audience with Pope Francis and to the celebration of the 150th anniversary with Cardinal Filoni (see PowerPoint below). In the second part, the coordinator reviewed the 2018 activity report and expressed some concerns, for example, about the functioning of the provincial commissions. There was a fruitful exchange between the participants calling for improvement. The coordinator also insisted on collaboration with Talitha Kum and with AEFJN and AFJN. The third part provided an opportunity to explain three events that will be organized by the coordination: a workshop on “Ecumenical Dialogue, a call for prophetic commitment” in March 2019 in Rome; an exchange and consultation meeting on “Islamic-Christian Dialogue” in April 2019 in Nairobi; a training workshop on “Life in intercultural community as an apostolic witness today” in September 2019 in Rome. Before concluding with the prayer of St. Bakhita, the coordinator gave some information on the pastoral care of human mobility taught at SIMI (Scalabrini International Migration Institute) in Rome ( and SIHMA (Scalabrini Institute for Human Mobility) in Capetown-South Africa (

Start the Power-point by clicking on the small central white arrow at the bottom left and move it forward by continuing to click on the right arrow.