By Vatican News
The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) held its 14th Ordinary Plenary Assembly from 16-18 September.
During the meeting, which took place partly in person and partly online, members assessed the projects the Commission has been working on over the course of the past year.
In an interview with Vatican News following the Plenary Assembly, Commission member Teresa Kettelkamp said that “contrary to how the media may portray it,” the Church’s response to the abuse crisis is “going strong and well,” adding, “it’s going strong and that is spreading throughout the world.”
A leader in the world
She acknowledged, “There are still scandals, we’re still made up of human beings in the Church.” However, she said that many of the scandals go back many years, dating especially to the late 1960s through the early 1980s. “The bulk of the abuse is in the past,” she said. “And victims are now having the courage to come forward.”
Although neither the Church nor individuals within the Church are perfect, she said she thinks “the Catholic Church is being a leader in the world in protecting children and providing assistance to victims.”
Providing assistance for victims and their families
Kettelkamp is the moderator for the Commission’s working group that works with survivors of abuse. She said one of the lessons that “has come out strongly” is “how hurt and traumatized family members are when they learn about the abuse.” She said that while the Church has traditionally focused on helping survivors, “family members could benefit as much from assistance as well.” Helping survivors, Kettelkamp said, “also means to help the family.”
The importance of providing assistance for family members is one of the points Kettelkamp says the Commission will be sharing with Pope Francis.
She also spoke of the importance, in the healing process, of taking into consideration “the humanity of the offender” as well, noting that many abusers are themselves wounded. The woundedness of offenders “doesn’t excuse” their actions, or “say it’s right,” she emphasized, “but if you can understand the woundedness of the offender, it can help with the survivors’ healing.
Different cultures, different needs
Another lesson learned, said Kettelkamp, “is that different cultures … have different needs.” She explained that different cultures throughout the world have very different approaches and attitudes toward sexual abuse and related issues. “So whatever methodology we use in a particular culture, it has to be unique to that culture,” she said.
One of the things “the Church can do best,” said Kettelkamp, “since it’s all over the world, is develop plans and policies and procedures unique to their individual country and culture.”
Encouraging survivors to come forward
Kettelkamp reflected on how the Church can “open its arms to those who have been abused.”
One way, she said, “is for the leadership in the Church” to say that “it’s okay to talk about abuse and to come forward for healing”— and when people who have been abused do come forward, “to love them and to respect their stories.”
Leaders in the Church, she repeated emphatically, need “to speak out over and over and over, to encourage those who’ve been harmed by abuse to come forward for help, and to educate [people] about what’s right and what’s wrong with regard to behavior among people.”