The work of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (Tutela Minorum) moved on line during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. Members analysed the effects of quarantine on children and vulnerable adults in situations at risk, together with their Safeguarding partners in the Church and civil society. They also began an online awareness raising campaign culminating with an Introduction to Safeguarding Webinar Series.
During the Summer as restrictions eased, Pope Francis opened up the Vatican Gardens to the children of Holy See employees. Tutela Minorum in collaboration with the organizers of the Salesian Summer Camp provided Safeguarding training to the group of 30 young camp volunteers, as part of a Safe Environment program.
Building a Safer Church together
Pope Francis confirmed the Pontifical Commission after its three-year ad experimentum phase and renewed its membership. In his Letter To The Holy People of God he writes “Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated.
The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults”. TutelaMinorum piloted Survivors Advisory Panels, on-line and in person, to explore the model as a safe space for people who have been abused to contribute to local church Safeguarding policies and practice.
Members offered over 100 Safeguarding education, formation and training initiatives as the movement for a safer church began to gain momentum. These included several presentations at the Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities Conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates and at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, Ireland.
TutelaMinorum began working together with the two global unions for men and women religious, the International Union of Superiors General (Women) and the Union of Superiors General (Men) to explore the concept of Safeguarding and care for men and women religious in their various apostolates.
Pope Francis meets with members gathered in Plenary Assembly
Pope Francis met with TutelaMinorum members, encouraging them to embark on partnering with other faith groups and organizations within civil society active in the protection of children and vulnerable people. Members and staff conducted two pilot projects in Colombia and Zambia to gauge Safeguarding structures, polices and implementation in different cultures.
In Spring, Tutela Minorum organized a major conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome to study #Safeguarding in Homes and Schools. Members attended the Global Education and Skills Forum, in the United Arab Emirates and a task force was invited by the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences for a workshop on strengthening Safeguarding systems partnering with CAFOD UK. Members noticed a rising trend in requests for formation, particularly from Institutes for Religious life and Societies of Apostolic life. TutelaMinorum began working with the Survivor Advisory Panel to the National Safeguarding Commission of the Bishops’ Conference for England and Wales, to study safe space models. In December, Pope Francis addressed the Child Dignity in the Digital World Congress in Rome, where the Holy See signed the Rome Declaration
Ongoing work with victims and survivors of clerical sexual abuse resulted in the 2016 proposal of a Day of Prayer for People who have suffered abuse. Pope Francis asked national bishops’ conferences to choose an appropriate day on which to pray for the survivors and victims of sexual abuse, their families and communities as part of a universal initiative. The Holy Father also issued a letter to bishops on the Feast of the Holy Innocents asking them to adhere, clearly and faithfully, to “zero tolerance” of abuse against children, including sexual abuse.
The Commission’s outreach spread across the continents with educational initiatives doubling year on year for a total of 70 events in as many countries in 2016. Members stepped up presentations on safeguarding and accountability for church leadership presenting, among others, to the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM); the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) and Bishops Conferences in Mexico, Italy, Slovakia, Lithuania and Australia.
Pope Francis issued the Apostolic Letter in Motu proprio As a Loving Mother, promulgated on the basis of a proposal by the Commission, clarifying that negligence regarding cases of sexual abuse committed against children or vulnerable adults are among the ‘grave causes’ that justify removal from ecclesiastical offices, even of bishops or their equivalent under canon law.
TutelaMinorum was asked to lead Safeguarding formation as part in the annual formation courses for new bishops offered by both the Congregation of Bishops and the Congregation for the Evangelization for Peoples. Members also offered formation to to future nuncios studying at the Accademia Ecclesiastica in Rome and personnel at the Congregation for Clergy. In December the Congregation for Clergy issued the new Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis for the formation of priests. It clearly refers to Safeguarding and indicates that “specific lessons, seminars or courses on the protection of minors are to be included in programs of initial and ongoing formation.”
Pope Francis approves the Tutela Minorum Statutes and appoints nine additional Commission members
The Commission studied lacunae in existing polices and norms and worked on the creation of a template guideline for Safeguarding Policies . The template is based on the 2011 Circular Letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and on the study of polices produced by many national bishops’ conferences.
It is a practical resource for bishops and religious leaders to help them develop and to implement effective policies, procedures, and programs for the protection of minors and vulnerable adults in their care.
Members continued their work of building #safeguarding awareness locally through more than thirty educational initiatives across the globe, taking in the Philippines, Rwanda, Ireland, France and Spain.
Examples of the programs include a meeting in December with the Episcopal Secretariat of Central America and Panama (SEDAC), for a two day conference that include bishops from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama. In Vatican City State, Tutela Minorum began safeguarding formation for personnel in collaboration with other Holy See offices, starting with the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
In June, Pope Francis issued a Papal Rescript on the establishment of a new judicial body within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the consideration of appeals relating to graver offences (delicta graviora) of the clergy, including cases of the abuse by clergy of minors, in an effort to speed up processes.
The Council of Cardinals advising Pope Francis proposed the idea of a Commission of experts to act as an advisory body to the Holy Father for the protection of minors and vulnerable adults.
The Cardinals, representing churches around the world, identified this task as one of the most urgent priorities for the Church today. The Holy Father approved the proposal and appointed Cardinal Seán O’Malley with the task of forming the Commission.