The CCP is happy to share this piece by Dr. Carmen La Vina, a 2017 graduate of the diploma course. The article is about a 5-day workshop that she, Msgr. Ramon Masculino (another 2017 graduate of the diploma course), and CCP Scientific Advisory Board Member Dr. Gabriel Dy-Liacco gave to the priests and bishop of the Diocese of Malaybalay in the Philippines.
Child Safeguarding Institute (CSI) of Emmaus Center for Psycho-Spiritual Formation, Philippines
The Diocese of Malaybalay in the Philippines took a step closer to making our Church the “safest place in the world.” On May 28 – 31, 2018, its presbyterium of 83 priests, along with Bishop Jose A. Cabantan, D.D., participated in the “Basic Orientation Workshop on Safeguarding of Minors” (BOWS) run by the Child Safeguarding Institute (CSI) of Emmaus Center for Psychospiritual Formation. Bp. Cabantan attended each activity of the workshop as a participant, together with his priests. The team of facilitators consisted of Gabriel Dy-Liacco, PhD, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM), along with Msgr. Ramon Masculino, MS, and Dr. Carmen La Vina, PhD, both graduates of the Diploma in Safeguarding of Minors at the Pontifical Gregorian University in 2017.
Using formative and participative processes in its pedagogy, BOWS aimed to orient the presbyterium to the essential role of safeguarding in the universal mission of the Church, the particular mission of the priests of the diocese of helping people draw close to Christ, and the practical roles of safeguarding guidelines, codes of conduct, and protocols in their ministries. To reach its aim, BOWS’ safeguarding framework guided the workshop design. This framework espouses the importance of cultivating a safe self lived out in a safe community for the purpose of a safe ministry in the service of the people of God. This tripod of relational safety considers the task of crafting guidelines, codes of conduct, and protocols as outcomes of a formative process where participants explore, understand, and own for themselves safeguarding principles and practices consistent with the gospel values.
Within the BOWS formative-participative approach, the presbyterium was first invited to expand and deepen their perspective of human relationships, childhood (temporal and divine filiation), and the abuse of minors, particularly sexual abuse, in the context of their relationships with God and the mission with which he has gifted each of them. These formative processes included didactic input, periods of prayer, reflection, and sharing, the use of documentary videos on sexual abuse in the Philippines and the movie, Spotlight, and integrative expressive arts exercises. These were not painless, but the priests of Malaybalay responded to them with a conversion of heart and conviction that they needed to enact concrete safeguarding measures. In the second half of the workshop, they rose to the challenge to be direct actors in the commitment to safeguarding of minors and the development of a safe environment system that they may offer to God and His people whom they love and serve. For example, in one of the concrete applications during the workshop, the presbyterium assessed risk factors and began crafting codes of conduct for themselves and the various ministries of the diocese based on this orientation. Both His Excellency, Bp. Cabantan, and the priests committed themselves to develop these documents into a comprehensive safeguarding policy, using as a guide the “Template for Developing a Child Protection Policy for the Catholic Church” of the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development of Caritas of England and Wales.
The specific workshop content covered the following: Part 1 provided a situationer on the issue of CSA both in the global and national levels, definition of terms, and scope of safeguarding and child protection. Part 2 tackled responses to CSA cases or allegations as well as preventive measures for creating a safe church organization. Finally, Part 3 conducted a workshop to assess the diocese’s risk and protective factors. This became the springboard for brainstorming the code of conduct across all relevant areas, namely, youth ministry, schools, accompaniment (spiritual direction and counseling), parish life, diocesan commissions, administration of sacraments, seminary and ongoing formation, diocesan employees, rectory life, family relations, and the presbyterium.
The participants were totally engaged in the workshop. They expressed how it allowed them to look into themselves and their priestly vocation in the context of safeguarding children and vulnerable adults. Indeed, the clergy came to regard safeguarding not as some external ministry they had to do but as a core aspect of their priestly vocation and personal vocation story. Once they reached this insight, the process of crafting the code of conduct just flowed naturally.
“Crafting the code of conduct would have been difficult without the orientation,” said Bishop Cabantan. Certainly, developing a protocol can be daunting for people with little understanding of the issue. This is why the workshop employed a formative and interactive process to facilitate this movement of internalization among the clergy. The holy hour at the start of the day and the Holy Mass at the end carried this formative movement. The liturgy reminded everyone that this mission is primarily God’s work to which we have been called to participate proactively.
The participants’ enthusiasm also demonstrated the importance of involving the whole presbyterium in the process of crafting the guidelines. Working together gave them a common perspective, shared approaches, and a support system key to living out a safe self, safe community, and safe ministry.
If this collective and consultative process continues, it is likely that their diocesan guidelines will be a living document – one that is known, relevant, and owned by its diocesan stakeholders. A document that will help create a safe Church in Malaybalay as well as respond effectively in times of CSA cases or allegations.
What’s next after the workshop? The Bishop plans to have the completed diocesan safeguarding guidelines promulgated within the year. Each priest will then sign a statement stating that he understands and agrees to abide by the contents of the document. Implementation of the guidelines will follow: assigning personnel as protection officers and team members, training of all the faithful in the diocese, monitoring and evaluation of the safe environment system.
There are many more steps to take. But the Bishop and presbyterium of the Diocese of Malaybalay have taken the crucial step towards safety for all.
—Dr. Carmen La Vina