Panel Discussion on Sexual Abuse of Children and Vulnerable Adults in the Catholic Church
In tandem with the letter of Pope Francis dated 20th August 2018, to the People of God requesting their solidarity in action on the crimes of abuse of sex, power and conscience, the Superior General, Fr. Michael Brehl, wrote to the Redemptorists of the various (V) Provinces, Regions and Missions across the world,requesting them to discuss the Pope’s Letter in their various communities and parishes, so as to come up with concrete suggestions and actions with regard to these grave sins against minors and vulnerable adults.
To take this request of the Superior General forward, the Parish Priest of Holy Ghost Parish, Fr. Paul P., organised a relevant panel discussion on the subject of sexual abuse with its legal and moral implications.The panel consisting of Fr. Juventius AndradeC.Ss.R., Fr. Christopher Vimalraj of the Archdiocese of Bangalore, Mrs. Dorothy Victor and Advocate Mr. Robinson D’Souza conducted the discussion to a full house audience of several Redemptorist Fathers, Brothers, Religious Sisters, Holy Ghost parishioners and laity from other Parishes in Bangalore, on the 23rd of September at Nava Spoorti Kendra (NSK) from 4 and 6 PM.
The main thrust of the discussion was centered on the letter of Pope Francis, calling the people of God to a new way of restoring and providing far-reaching justice to all minors and the vulnerable of our societies from the evils of abuse. It was to brain storm a new responsein contrast to the hitherto patriarchal approach and in-built clericalism prevalent in the Catholic Church, in handling all forms of abuse, be it sexual, power or conscience.
Fr. Juventius Andrade of the Bangalore Province and former General Consultor with wide experience in animating such fora played the lead role in introducing, coordinating and concluding the discussion. He led the discussion with a thorough study of the letter of Pope Francis through a well-prepared power point presentation. Fr. Christopher Vimlraj, a Doctor in Moral Theology and proficient in Canon Law relating to sexual abuse threw much light on the various aspects of pedophilia, the psychology of pedophiles, the restitution available to the victims of pedophilia and the moral recourse that the Church takes in such cases. Mrs. Dorothy Victor, Deccan Herald Columnist and contributing editor of the parish newsletter ‘Living Water,’spoke on the evils of the laity remaining neutral to such atrocities inflicted on people while at the same time highlighting, on the positive side, the contribution of the church to the progress of the world at large and the necessity to celebrate the good ministry of the Church. Though Mr. Robinson D’Souza, advocate and legal consultant, was to handle the legal aspects of these crimes, he left prematurely due to unforeseen circumstances.
The open house that followed had an energized participation of the audience with suitable suggestions and recommendations for better handling and restitution of cases of abuse. The consensus was that every Parish ought to have clear and concise information and guidelines on the procedure to be followed in the event of any suspected or actual abuse. There was a common appeal for the creation of safe environments to protect vulnerable children and adults from possible dangers from clergy offenders and others in positions of authority in the surroundings. Creating awareness, having policies and protocols in place and urging swift disciplinary actions in the event of any shortcomings or mishaps were other suggestions that were voiced.
The discussion ended with Fr. Juventius summing up the evening’s interaction with the fresh thought that a new model of leading the church devoid of clericalism, authority and pomp with a collegial and transparent church at the helm be encouraged and facilitated. “We ought to be as humble as the humbled God on a cross who beckons all who enters a Church,” said Fr. Juventius stressing on the need for humility and service over authority and show.
The vote of thanks delivered by Mrs. Dorothy Victor acknowledging the contribution of all who made the discussion a meaningful one brought the program to a happy and positive end. Fr. Paul finally thanked Fr. Siluvai Muthu for the fitting arrangements at NSK that made the event possible and called on the participants for tea and fellowship!
Juventius Andrade C.SS.R.