Safeguarding is the name of a programme being developed within the Archdiocese to raise awareness of abuse and ways we, in the Church, can work together to create a safer communities. Maria Noonan, Safe Church Programme Leader for the Catholic Church in New Zealand’s National Office for Professional Standards, and the Community Organiser of the Archdiocese Catholic Social Services, reports.
Safeguarding is about developing attitudes and activities that promote the dignity, wellbeing and safety of those who take part in any Church-facilitated activity. In practice, this means Church activities need to be well planned with sufficient support and facilities so risks can be identified and minimised. It also means anyone involved in Church ministries must be carefully selected, clearly know what is expected of them and be willing to ask for help with any concerns about their role.
Safeguarding is also about responding to concerns when someone may not be safe or secure. It means being able to respond confidently and appropriately to ensure the safety of a child or vulnerable member of our Church community, which may involve other organisations to ensure that our response is robust. Safeguarding also means care for those who have been hurt by abuse in the past. And it is about ministering to and managing those who have caused harm.
As part of introducing Safeguarding into the Wellington Archdiocese, in December last year Catholic Social Services invited Bill Kilgallon to talk to Archdiocesan Directors about his leadership work on abuse prevention for the Church. Bill is the Director of the National Office for Professional Standards (NOPS) of the Catholic Church in New Zealand. He is also a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, established in 2014 by Pope Francis to address abuse in the Catholic Church.
Bill spoke frankly the about occurrences of abuse in the Catholic Church and the rigorous policies and procedures under the National Training Programme, which has been developed for clergy, religious and those carrying leadership roles in ministry. He also spoke about the need for proactive and responsive safeguarding systems in the Archdiocese to prevent sexual abuse, which include safe recruitment and training, response to complaints, care for victims and survivors and management of offenders.
The introduction of Safeguarding also involved was followed by an introductory session about developing a ‘culture of safeguarding’ in parish communities was held at St Joseph’s parish, Mt Victoria. Bill Kilgallon explained why this approach for parishes is needed and outlined the guidelines being developed by the Pontifical Commission. At this session I also outlined the contents of the National Safeguarding Awareness Programme, what safeguarding will mean in our parishes, and proposed training and implantation plans.
During his visit to Wellington Bill met with Catholic Social Services staff to explore challenges that have arisen from abuse by clergy and religious and the processes now in place to address them.