Commission, Mgr Kennedy, General Council
The Amplified General Council (AGC) held in May 2021 via zoom, expressed the desire about procedural directory being drawn up regarding cases of sexual abuse of minors and abuse of vulnerable people. During the 35th Ordinary General Council (OGC), Fr. Eugênio Barbosa Martins, the Superior General, and the General Council discussed the need to revise the Vademecum on sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults by members of our congregational family, a burning theme in the pontificate of Pope Francis, especially from the year 2019. To carry out this revision, at the same 35th session of the OGC, an ad hoc commission was set up, constituted of the following members: Fr. John Keenan (USA), Fr. Miguel García (Philippines), Fr. Peter Fernandez (India), Fr. Gabriele Di Nicolò (Italy) and Fr. Jean-Willy Mupila (DR Congo), coordinated by Fr. Agostinho Maholele, a General Consultor.
On 29 June 2021, via a zoom meeting, the work of this commission began under the presidency of the Superior General, who set out instructions on the mission that was entrusted to this commission. He took the opportunity to thank everyone for their willingness to provide this service for our religious family. Like a mosaic the commission comprised a rich composition, namely: competency in psychiatric and medical science in general, a canonist and follow-up practices in the area under study, two formators. The commission could not limit itself to dealing with curative and/or punitive processes but was also required to consider the horizon of prevention. Well, it is commonly understood that health lies in preventing the occurrence of pathologies and not in applying remedies aimed at curing. Definitely, the Superior General invited and exhorted the members of this ad hoc commission to work to produce a tool that would be useful and practical for provincial superiors and their associates and formators at all levels of formation, initial and ongoing.
Miguel, Jean-Willy, Agostinho, Gabriele, Peter, John
The ad hoc commission held several meetings via zoom. To do so meant coping with the obstacle imposed by differing time zones. Some had to agree to the make the sacrifice of working late at night to meet other members of the commission. Various methodologies were adopted to ensure productivity and efficiency. As in work carried out in all our international committees, there were communication difficulties. Not everyone was able to work in English and not everyone could communicate in French. Fortunately, some solution to remedy the situation was found within the working group and through everyone's flexibility it was possible for the task received to be concluded.
A task received from an authority always entails a feeling of insecurity. One is never sure about living up to expectations. Because of this, in October 2022, when the last meeting of the committee was held, convinced of having managed to gather the necessary and sufficient information and material to update the current Vade-mecum, existing in our directory, a face-to-face meeting was planned. Since the work had been commissioned by the Superior General and the General Council, the commission expressed the desire to hold this meeting together with the General Council. For this reason, the ideal place could not be any other than the General Curia.
Thus, from 20 – 24 February 2023, the conclusive and preparatory work to be presented to the General Chapter in November took place in the General Council’s meeting room. Apart from the members of the General Council and the ad hoc commission, we had at the opening of the session the inexpressible joy of the presence of Monsignor John Kennedy, head of the department that deals with sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable persons as part of the Dicastery of the Doctrine of faith. It was most enlightening to experience and listen to the different sensitivities, which rather than being contradictory, were more illuminating and enriching in respect of the document now produced.
On behalf of the ad hoc commission and on my own behalf, I express deep gratitude to the Superior General and the General Council for the trust placed in each one of us. This gratitude is extended to the provinces that have allowed their different members to form part of this commission and thus be able to contribute to our entire religious family. Special gratitude goes to each and every one of the dear confreres who worked hard and gave the best of themselves. Thank you all very much! May the light of Jesus in the Eucharist continue to illuminate our lives and make us witnesses of his humanity!
Father Agostinho Maholele, sss
Coordinator of the ad hoc commission for the revision of the Vade Mecum