By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
A 4-day conference organized by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors aims to help the Church in her reflections and response to the crisis of the abuse of minors and vulnerable persons.
The event, themed “Our Common Mission of Safeguarding God’s Children”, is being held on 19 – 22 September in the Polish capital of Warsaw. It gathers Catholic representatives from across Central and Eastern Europe, as well as experts who work in the field of child and youth protection.
Need for a system of protection
Prof. Paweł Wiliński is one of the participants at the safeguarding conference. He is a professor of criminal procedure at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poland and a Judge at the Supreme Court of Poland, adjudicating in the criminal chambers.
In an interview with Vatican News, he spoke about the conference and some of the key points from the discussions, highlighting the need for a system of protection for the victims of abuse that takes their basic rights into account.
He acknowledged that many steps have already been taken in the past years to ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable persons. However, he added, a lot more things still need to be put in place when it comes to the victims at the center of the situation “to make them feel that they are still members of the Church.”
Protecting the rights of victims
Among the many points of discussion during the conference, Prof. Wiliński noted the emphasis on ensuring the rights of the victims of sexual abuse to information, representation, protection, and compensation.
He explained that the right to information is understood as “the right to give information about their situation, and the right to receive information from the Church” about the procedure and the verdict.
The right to representation, he continued, includes legal representation by someone who will be concerned about the position of the victim.
He also spoke about the right to protection, which involves protecting the person from a “second victimization” and the protection of their personal data, including finding special ways for them to participate in the proceedings.
Finally, Prof Wiliński stressed that the right to compensation is inevitable if the Church wants victims of abuse to continue to be and to feel that they are still members of the Church.
He concluded the interview expressing his hopes that these issues will be further discussed and elaborated in the future.