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”.
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 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.
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.
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.
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:
Personal sharing on the reality of sexual abuse. This moment quickly became emotional. Compassion is indeed a necessary force in this commitment to life.
Training: understanding this evil of sexual abuse. Our basic text was two of the booklets published in Brazil on the subject.
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.
In the wake of the latest splashes from the United States, Stéphane Joulain has posted on Facebook some of his thoughts on the training of priests for the 21st century. As many of us are not Facebook enthusiasts, I reproduce this post here.
The formation of future priests is certainly one of the important places of the reform that Pope Francis could undertake. But first of all, we must agree in the Church on which face of the Church do we want and which ministries for this Church. The priests will have to find their right place there. Continue reading “Reflecting on formation”
White Father, a psychotherapist specializing in the treatment of sexual abuse, Father Stéphane Joulain provides training in education and prevention. He deciphers this clericalism, denounced by the Pope, which has led the dioceses of Pennsylvania to hide crimes committed by priests for years.
LETTER OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD
“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Cor 12:26). These words of Saint Paul forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons. Continue reading “Letter of Pope Francis to the People of God”
Translation of the article of Jean-Baptiste Le Roux (RCF Radio 20 August 2018)
The publication of a report in the United States reveals a list of 300 priests accused of paedophilia and more than 1,000 victims.
It is a new paedophilia scandal that is shaking the universal Church. A major scandal. An investigation carried out by the Pennsylvania prosecutor’s office, published on 14 August, revealed the existence of sexual abuse perpetrated by more than 300 priests, of which no fewer than 1,000 children were reported victims.
“MORE REVELATIONS IN THE YEARS TO COME”
These abuses were all, according to the investigation report, covered by the Catholic Church of the American state. Today, almost all the cases brought to light by the investigation are statute-barred. Those responsible cannot therefore be prosecuted. A case reminiscent of the one led by Boston journalists, and which gave birth to the film Spotlight.
“It takes a long time for a victim to dare to speak, to free herself and to say the suffering that is hers. It is not surprising that it takes so many years. And we know that sexual violence against children is the least reported to the authorities. We can expect other revelations in the years to come,” explains Father Stéphane Joulain, a white father and psychotherapist specializing in paedophilia.
“THE VICTIMS’ WORDS ARE FREE”
The latter evokes an evolution in relation to the victims. “The victims’ words are free. The victims dare to speak out and the other victims see this word come free and tell themselves that they could be believed. This is very important. I believe that before the Church was ready to hear, there were all those victims who dared to speak, and who freed the words of others,” the psychotherapist adds.
“Those who have been complicit in these crimes must be brought to justice. So, of course, the bishops who are stationed in the dioceses of Pennsylvania are probably not those who were there when the facts were committed, but those who have responsibilities in the concealment of these facts must be brought to justice. Because as soon as you protect a criminal, you become an accomplice to these crimes,” says Father Joulain.
“THE POPE REALIZED THAT BISHOPS COULD LIE”
For the latter, it was the Chilean affair that marked a real turning point in the awareness of these horrors by the ecclesial authorities. “The Pope realized that bishops could lie and that the information he had was not correct. He was already sensitive to these realities, but then he realized that there was a real systemic problem. This moment of change can help the Church to move forward with the victims in reparation work,” says the psychotherapist.
“In his last apostolic exhortation, the Pope says that humiliation calls for humility. This is the only way the Catholic Church can truly be a Church at the service of God’s people, a Church that knows how to walk humbly. Once humiliation is accepted, and there is a factor of shame, the Pope invites us to transform it into humility. Humility, Saint John Chrysostom defined it as the recognition of truth. You have to walk the truth. Yes, the Church has failed in its mission. Yes, the Church is sinful. Yes, the men who make it up have abused children and vulnerable people. Yes, we must accept this dimension of our ecclesial institution. But you mustn’t stay with your nose in the dust. We have to ask ourselves how, with the victims, we are going to find ways of reparation. This is where the Lord awaits us” Father Stéphane Joulain concludes.