“Good treatment is promoted with communication, mutual knowledge, love and respect for the autonomy of the other”
What is to be understood by “culture of good treatment”?
In general, we could say that good treatment, both in family contexts and community, is achieved when spaces and times are provided to interact, willing to discover the needs of the other. Good treatment is promoted through communication, mutual knowledge, love and respect for the autonomy of the other.
Since the abuse crisis exploded in the Church, we have focused on guidelines for protection, dangers, offender profiles and consequences for victims and, perhaps, we have only been left with that dimension that, in some way, tells us about what negative.
Of course, this is a very deep and painful topic that must be addressed in a serious and committed, but spending all day talking about abuse is not good and does not allow move along. Without forgetting the victims, the wounds, the accompaniment, the reparation, It is also important to be purposeful and, for this, language helps us.
Talking about good treatment is talking about how to improve our community relations and pastoral care, how to prevent negative situations not only by being restrictive, but with positive proposals.
To speak of good treatment is to evaluate our life and mission based on an analysis of how we conceive authority and power in our day to day. It also means reviewing our transparency, accountability and proposals for improvement, our formative processes and the way we face our ministry.
As coordinator of the promotion of the culture of good treatment in the Augustinian Recollect Family, what has your teaching job at the Gregorian University brought you?
One of the things I like the most about the Gregorian University of Rome is the experience of find you in a small laboratory of the Universal Church. So much for cultural diversity as for interdisciplinarity, every day you have the opportunity to share life, concerns, investigations and doubts with many people from many different places, with profiles of the most varied.
With reference to this matter, this is also the case, because speaking of vulnerability, of childhood, risk factors, institutional aspects, Church models, etc., is something which also depends a lot on the context, culture and field or discipline from which is addressed.
I remember that the first year I taught in the Safeguarding Diploma at the Institute of Gregorian Anthropology (IADC) I had 22 students from 20 different countries and, in addition, the course was in English. A challenge…
Every year dozens of students from the five continents are trained at the IADC and have the opportunity to accompany them, learn from them and contribute something from what we are going noting and deepening is a fantastic experience.
Furthermore, all this work is not only something academic, pedagogical or intellectual, but it is integrated into the very mission of the Church. Somehow, I take it as one more dimension of my being an evangelizer.
Is the Augustinian Recollect Family sufficiently aware of the “culture of the good deal”?
When we speak of a religious Family, we are not referring to an abstract entity but to people like you and me, with their experiences, their doubts, their different ways of perceive reality and react. I believe that in the institutional sphere there is a clear commitment to promote a culture of good treatment, although perhaps it has not fully understood what it consists of.
On a personal level, there are people who are very committed to preventing abuse and the promotion of good treatment; and there are skeptics, even some who can make a full amendment. But it is not something that should surprise us because in the Churches diocesan and in the universal Church there are the same reactions.
My general assessment, up to now, of the steps taken in our Family is positive, I believe that we are making progress and, although much remains to be done, we must recognize that, in many aspects, we have been in a way pioneers.
I remember that it was around 2013 when the Province of Saint Thomas of Villanova began to raise the need to go deeper into this topic. Shortly after, the General Curia made a great contribution to the canonical Protocol to deal with situations of abuse. Since then I think the Order has been very committed, although, as I say, much remains to be done.
If I had to highlight any of the initiatives launched in recent years, I think that the Child Protection Plan coordinated by ARCORES and the EDUCAR Network in the centers educational institutions in Spain can be a good reference.
This plan is based on risk analysis, review of protocols and codes of behavior, the training of coordinators, students, teachers and families, and through a process of continuous evaluation, both internal and external.
The objective is that he does not stay in one more activity, but that the culture of good treatment remains integrated as a transversal dimension of educational centers. Our objective is transfer this experience to other geographical contexts and study what elements can apply to other ministries, such as parishes.
The Augustinian Recollect Family has also had to act in certain cases lacerating. How have you dealt with the problem?
I believe that we have acted responsibly, with criteria and learning from each situation that arises. It has been presenting Of course, from the first cases that were identified in the Universal Church in the United States until today there have been many advances, much learning, a lot of awareness and, little by little, things are getting better.
The mere fact of dealing with the theme, of keeping it in mind in the capitular dialogues, of picking it up in the general, provincial and community Life and Mission Projects, having developed a training Plan, setting up a Commission dedicated to it, having people committed and working in this field... All this is already a lot, although we cannot shape.
Perhaps the most significant leap that we have experienced is that, when a situation is identified today of abuse in our settings, we now know what to do, or at least where to start, who to go to etc.
We must continue to deepen the accompaniment of injured people —both victims as perpetrators—, in the reparation processes, in the sensitization and training.
In the capitular processes that the Augustinian Recollects have had during the year 2022, what most significant advances have occurred?
In the Life and Mission Projects of the Order and the Provinces, serious consideration has been the prevention and protection of minors and vulnerable people.
From a practical point of view, work teams are formed, people are trained, documents that we already had are reviewed and new ones are provided, work is done with other institutions, religious and civil, that help us and those that we help.
In short, I think we are on the right track, but we must be careful so that everything this process does not remain only in documents, protocols, meetings, norms and teams of work, but that we manage to take another step in our commitment to good treatment.
This commitment materializes in transparency, in accountability, in the review of the clericalist conception of our life, in the use without abuse of power, in the need to accompany and let ourselves be accompanied by the brothers.
In summary, I am convinced that, as a Church and as a charismatic Family, we can only make progress on these issues if each one of us considers a personal conversion.
What is the document and what does it contain “Prevention and protection of minors and vulnerable people in the Order of Augustinian Recollects”?
It is a compendium of the work that our Family has been doing in recent years. From the Commission we are aware that people cannot be confused by sending loose documents without a suitable explanation and pedagogical proposal.
For this reason, it was decided to collect everything in a single document and present it together with a course introductory online through the platform of the Training School 'In imum cordis' to from February of this year 2023.
Along with this, other virtual and face-to-face training aimed at superiors will be offered elders, local priors, religious and lay people responsible for apostolic works and all those people who develop their work in the environments of our ministries.
In this joint publication you will find: the Statute and Regulations of the Commission of protection of minors and vulnerable people; the canonical Protocol of action before complaints of crimes against the sixth commandment with minors or people vulnerable; Guidelines for the prevention and protection of minors and adults vulnerable in ministerial and missionary ministry, in educational centers, in projects social, in formation environments and in vocation ministry; a list of key concepts; application forms in different situations and with different profiles of people; and, finally, some Guidelines for the management of communication crises.
With the exception of the Protocol before complaints, of obligatory compliance, and the documents organization of the Commission, the rest are guidelines to adapt to each reality geographic and cultural.
On the other hand, a continuous update will be required to collect the news and respondto the needs that arise. For all this, I think we are well oriented, we must continue walking and we must seize this opportunity as a way to revitalize ourlife and mission.