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 (www.simiroma.org/site/) and SIHMA (Scalabrini Institute for Human Mobility) in Capetown-South Africa (http://sihma.org.za/).

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.

Summit on the protection of minors – Vatican 21-24 February 2019

From 21 to 24 February, the presidents of the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences around the world responded to Pope Francis’ call to come to Rome to the Vatican to reflect together on how best to respond seriously to this unprecedented crisis facing the Catholic Church today. The sufferings of so many men and women, children and young people call for a determination on the part of the whole Church. During these three days, several speakers followed one another to address different topics based on the three areas of reflection proposed by the organizing committee: Responsibility, Accountability, Transparency.

All the conferences can be found on the VaticanNews YouTube channel. This summit was also punctuated by several testimonies of victims previously recorded in audio or video. These testimonies allowed those among the speakers who had never heard from victims to discover the extent of the suffering they had endured. Participants also worked in language groups.

What should we remember from this summit?

It is possible to read many analyses in different languages in the online press, indeed 450 journalists were accredited, mainly from the English-speaking world. But for us, here is what we can learn that is important.

This meeting is just one step in this immense project which is to respond to the suffering of the victims with compassion and mercy. It is also a step in the process of conversion of hearts necessary for real preventive work to make the Catholic Church a safe home for children and the most vulnerable. In his final speech, Pope Francis set 7 priority axes of work for the whole People of God and more especially for the bishops of the whole world, here they are summarized with his words (Excerpts from the final speech):

  1. Protection of children: the primary objective of any measure is to protect children and prevent them from being victims of psychological and physical abuse. It is therefore necessary to change attitudes to combat the defensive and reactive attitude aimed at safeguarding the Institution, in favour of a sincere and determined search for the good of the community, giving priority to the victims of abuse in every sense of the word.”
  2. An irreproachable seriousness: I would like to repeat here that the Church will not spare itself to do all that is necessary to bring to justice anyone who has committed such crimes. The Church will never seek to stifle or underestimate any case.”
  3. True purification: despite the measures taken and the progress made in preventing abuse, it is necessary to impose a perpetual and renewed commitment to the holiness of pastors whose configuration in Christ the Good Shepherd is a right of God’s people.”
  4. Formation: in other words, the requirements of the selection and formation of candidates for the priesthood with criteria not only negative, aimed mainly at excluding problematic personalities, but also positive by offering a balanced formation path for suitable candidates, oriented towards holiness including the virtue of chastity.”
  5. To strengthen and verify the guidelines of the Episcopal Conferences: that is, to reaffirm the requirement of unity of the Bishops in the application of measures that have the value of norms and not only of guidelines. No abuse should ever be covered…”
  6. Accompanying victims of abuse: The harm they have experienced leaves indelible wounds in them, which are also manifested in resentment and tendencies towards self-destruction. The Church therefore has a duty to offer them all the necessary support by calling on experts in this field.”
  7. The digital world: the protection of minors must take into account the new forms of sexual abuse and all forms of abuse that threaten them in the environments in which they live and through the new instruments they use.”

These are seven priorities that Pope Francis has set for the bishops and major superiors of consecrated congregations and institutes of consecrated life, but also more broadly for the whole People of God.

To complete this roadmap, other measures will come: produce a Motu proprio on this question; offer a practical guide for bishops and major superiors to help them in their mission; “task forces / teams of experts” may also be created to help local churches that have more difficulty finding material and human resources to fight against this evil that spares no particular church or human community.

Let us make this roadmap our own.

Useful links :

Chaine YouTube de VaticanNews pour voir ou revoir les conférences :
En français – https://www.youtube.com/user/vaticanfr
In English – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxIsefyl9g9A5SGWA4FvGIA
Also exists in other languages
Many interviews and articles on www.vaticannews.va

Formation to prevention in Mahagi

Our confrere Peter Ekutt, Delegate for Child Protection in Congo, offered training for 82 consecrated persons from the Diocese of Mahagi, he tells us about this training.

For three days, 82 consecrated persons from the Diocese of Mahagi came to live a formation experience in the cathedral parish around the bishop on the occasion of the celebration of the Day of Consecrated Persons. The Bishop himself gave the first conference on some of the measures to be taken as a religious in the diocese. Then, I was able to lead a day of conferences and sharing on “the integrity of the ministry and sexual abuse as a risk factor”.

Peter inviting participants towards the end of the session to take some time to think about victims.

Report on the proceedings

First, I presented the integrity of the Ministry and the issue of sexual abuse as one of the factors that threatens that integrity today. I began by showing the participants why sexual abuse is on the front page today in Pope Francis’ pontificate. Then I developed the different risk factors that can facilitate abusive behaviour. I also presented the different forms of abuse. Then we focused our attention on several points: the physical consequences of sexual abuse on minors; the method that predators use to establish their control over minors; the distorted ideas (cognitive distortions) that predators use to abuse minors; the attitudes to avoid when talking about sexual abuse; and the measures to take to protect the child. Finally, I have shown that the struggle belongs to all of us, so as to create a safe environment for children and vulnerable adults.

In the middle of the conference, we had workshops, based on a text – a case study from South Africa. The reactions in the groups were very positive from participants.

I also invited an employee who listens to minors who are victims of sexual harassment in schools to share his experience with us. He encourages young people to get tested for HIV/AIDS in our youth centre. This father spoke about the fact that most of the infected young people are girls between 11 and 22 years of age and this leads us to believe that there are many cases of sexual abuse around us even if we don’t hear about it. The statistics provided by this speaker touched the participants. The fact that this testimony and report were given by a father added weight to the conference. This sharing experience was very practical and touching. It made us think and reflect.

We finished with the video on sexual abuse: “A doctor to save women”, followed by a sharing on the video. No one had seen the video before, and it was a good information and documentation for the consecrated ones. The sharing was superb and good reflections came out during the sharing.

Together we prayed the prayer of the delegate.

Together we took the prayer of the delegate for the protection of minors.

In general, the consecrated persons greatly appreciated the initiative of giving this conference. They were very happy that we were talking about this but also very shocked to see that finally we can talk about something they consider to be TABOO. They were anxious to know whether the bishop agreed because they were afraid to touch their ” taboos “. It is fortunate that we were able to talk about this scary taboo as people, and especially children, die in the silence of the taboo.

Participants read the documents already published on the subject.

Many wish that this could also be offered in schools and for catechumenate courses. But you have to take it slowly. I am already happy to have been able to speak to the consecrated persons of the Diocese of Mahagi.

It is nevertheless worth noting some strong resistance from the side of male religious who thought that this was a criticism of the Church and in particular of the priests to the benefit of the Sisters. But I had experienced this before and it doesn’t bother me. It is a defense mechanism to avoid facing reality. This did not prevent this session from being a success and a great experience for all participants.

Peter Ekutt, M.Afr.

Workshop on safeguarding

From 29 October to 9 November, the delegates for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults were invited to a training workshop. Some had already participated in the first workshop last year and therefore only participated in the second week. But the “new ones” had to be upgraded first during the first week to be able to follow the deepening session with the others. Below you will see a picture of the first group and a short report from Jean Lamonde, delegate for our community in Rome. And below, the group photo of almost all the delegates. Indeed, Joseph Makoka, suffering from mild malaria, had become the centre of attraction for the apprentice doctors of a university hospital in Rome.

Seven confreres participated in the session on Integrity of the Ministry and Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Persons in Rome. During the week, several topics were discussed. The first few days were devoted to the different concepts and definitions of sexual abuse, minors and vulnerable persons. Attention was then turned to the victims, their suffering and the perpetrators of sexual abuse. The reflection also focused on the attitude to follow in order to accompany, listen to and support victims. The company’s policy and the role of the Child Protection Officer have been well described and explained. Finally, the different procedures to be followed in the event of sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable person were presented.

This is a brief description of the first initiation given to the new delegates for the protection of minors. This initiation will certainly be most useful and as it is also intended to provide participants with a minimum of material to continue their own training once they return to their different positions.

Jean Lamonde

Project Princess Tamar (Protection of minors in Brazil)

In Brazil we have grouped together in a structure called the “Cardinal Lavigerie Center” our commitments for Justice, Peace, Integrity of Creation and Encounter and Dialogue. This centre is located at the Catholic University. We organize round tables, exhibitions, conferences, seminars on JPIC ED issues. The prevention of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable persons is one of the projects managed by the centre.

Last year, after having followed the training offered by the Society of Missionaries of Africa for its Delegates for the Protection of Minors, I returned to Brazil wondering what we could do in practice. The missionary is an apostle who knows how to translate compassion (a feeling) into mercy (a concrete action in favour of the person). I started by speaking openly about it in our parish and also during the retreats and recollections I preach. As everyone feels uncomfortable talking directly about abusers, abusers and abusers, I then started from the biblical story of Princess Tamar who was raped by her stepbrother Amnon (2 Samuel 13). The narrative always has a liberating effect. The result was explosive: tongues untied to reveal the Tamar and Amnon of today who frequent our churches.

During the annual retreat of the Mass servers of our parish last year, we spent a few hours with the story of Princess Tamar. These teenagers stepped into the story with passion, emotions, revolts… From that moment on, I created the Princess Tamar Project, a campaign to raise awareness and protect minors and vulnerable people against sexual abuse. This year the Sisters of Saint Joseph in contact with this reality wished to participate in this campaign to protect minors. I also spoke about sexual abuse at the annual retreat of the clergy of a diocese. The priest in charge of the diocesan Social Action and who is also president of an association for life (ProVida) was passionate about the Princess Tamar Project. All these positive and spontaneous reactions led to the organization of a seminar on the prevention of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable persons from 17 to 19 September 2018 in Salvador, an initiative of the Missionaries of Africa in Brazil.

We were 14 participants representing institutions or associations that would form a network of collaboration: the Missionaries of Africa, the Social Pastoral Ministry of the parish of the Missionaries of Africa, the Social Action of the Archdiocese of Salvador, including one representative of the Pastoral Ministry for Minors and another of the Youth Pastoral Ministry; the Children Pastoral Ministry, the ProVida Association, and the Social Sac Association. The seminar took place in 3 moments:

  1. Personal sharing on the reality of sexual abuse. This moment quickly became emotional. Compassion is indeed a necessary force in this commitment to life.
  2. Training: understanding this evil of sexual abuse. Our basic text was two of the booklets published in Brazil on the subject.
  3. Define concrete actions of the Princess Tamar Project.

Our objective: a prevention campaign. We have prepared printed, audiovisual material based on the culture of northeastern Brazil. These materials will be used during meetings organized in schools, parishes, neighbourhoods… The network’s member associations have the capacity to mobilize people and enter all spheres of the Brazilian society. We will visit institutions where there are minors to ensure that they are safe places. The seminar developed a whole programme of actions.

The Princess Tamar Project is therefore underway as a collaborative network for the protection of minors and vulnerable people in northeastern Brazil. We will need financial support to carry out this awareness and protection campaign. We count on the generosity of the Society of the Missionaries of Africa and the confreres. We have decided to meet twice a year to evaluate our commitment and to participate in the training necessary for our mission.

Moussa Serge Traore, M.Afr.