I am present again for an important communication regarding to our next steps, to remain always docile to the directives of the Magisterium of the Church and to the indications of Pope Francis, our guide and Pastor on the journey of the Congregation.
Somehow, from some years we have been hearing about the scandal of paedophilia and sexual abuses, the problem, which unfortunately also occurs, within our Catholic Church. It is mainly, spoken for men, but there are already numerous cases that have also emerged by women, within Religious Institutes and Congregations. Often when we talk about sexual abuses, we are also dealing with abuses of conscience and power, which are express in privileges, arrogance and domination over people, control and manipulation of consciences, privation of liberty, and distortion of reality… These are “thorny” issues, difficult but which must be tackle with determination. For too many years the Church, undoubtedly with the conviction of doing the best good, has preferred to protect its members, not to expose them to further scandal, however to the detriment of those who instead suffered injustice, abuse, harassment; it tried to hide, to minimize, to silence rather than address the problem.
However, to address these plagues and try to solve these problems, global and radical actions are needed, above all to change the mentality of the “untouchable above all suspicion”.
For this reason, Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 had asked to be updated the BOOK VI of the Code of Canon Law, the one that regulates the “Church penal legislation”, especially with regard to the protection of minors and transparency in the management of ecclesiastical property.
Today, thanks be to God, have been taken important steps, it has been understood how important it is to prevent, assist, do justice, protect the most fragile and vulnerable, put in place adequate norms also to sanction the guilty and compensate the moral, psychological, material damage of who has been the victim of such abuse.
Faced with this painful and often submerged reality, Pope Francis has decided to do the right thing. With such enlightened determination he has embarked on a new path and he is asking the whole Church for more transparency in dealing with the problem, more courage in condemning and denouncing, more compassion in listening to the victims, more justice in repairing the damage, more prophecy in our environments in preventing certain crimes and in caring for the wounds caused by the abuse of power and conscience.
In these years, Pope Francis has issued some documents in the form of MOTU PROPRIO relating to this issue:
Even our Religious Institutes have been call to promote more profoundly the culture of responsibility, in accountability and transparency as opposed to a culture of silence and secrecy. We are call to collaborate with the Church and civil authorities to help victims of all forms of abuse heal the wounds of the past through a process of accompaniment and plea for justice and also, to invest in the prevention of abuse through collaborative training and educational programs. The task of us consecrated people is to assume responsibility together, to open our eyes, not to turn away, on a reality that is mainly the fruit of a sick culture.
For this reason, all Religious Congregations have been invited to prepare “Guidelines for the protection of minors and vulnerable people”. That is within their environments (schools, homes for minors, social centres, rest homes for the elderly people, but even our own communities, formation houses, etc.); a document that guides the work of the Superiors (but not only), in the event of a crisis situation. It will be a sort of Vademecum, a Regulation, in which basic principles will be express in which will be added protocols of application.
Some religious Congregations are already at a good point on this journey, they already have their Guidelines and protocols of application; others have been working for some years; still others – like us – are taking their first steps on this new path. The Unions of female and male Major Superiors of various countries offer assistance to those embarking on this journey, prepare formation meetings (face-to-face or online), they give the opportunity to participate in moments of study and reflection relating to the theme of abuse, they give useful information and suggestions on how to get around.
For us, I think it is important to work on two fronts:
In the meeting with the Provincial Superiors and the Delegate, we addressed the issue and we are taking action to create a working commission and prepare material for the awareness of all of us religious but also of the lay people who work with us.
More details and information will be given to you in due time. For now, let us remain united in prayer for Pope Francis, for the victims of abuses of all times and places, and let us ask the Lord to help us not to fall into these weaknesses and sins. Unfortunately, no one can say, “these problems do not exist in my Congregation”. We watch over ourselves, we follow the teachings of Jesus and in fraternal life, “we live charity through esteem, trust, understanding, friendship and mutual help” (Dir. Gen 41); all this will help us to be true witnesses and evangelizers in our works and missions.
A fraternal hug,
Mother Lina Maria Girotto – Superior general