The Augustinian Recollect Antonio Carrón reflects in this article on the meeting of bishops about sexual abuse and good treatment
Over the last few years, a regrettable situation has been uncovered which, for a variety of reasons, has been silenced for too long. This is the case of abuses in the context of couples, in the family context, in the context of work, abuses in the context of sport, with the elderly, in the film or music industry, or the abominable abuses perpetrated by clergy within the Catholic Church and in other religious confessions. It is a rare week when there are no new cases of so-called gender-based violence, situations of bullying in schools or other violence in different contexts. In October 2017, the #MeToo movement was popularized as a way to denounce sexual assault and harassment following allegations of sexual abuse against U.S. filmmaker and executive Harvey Weinstein. Years earlier – in 2002 – the US newspaper Boston Globe uncovered a multitude of cases of concealment of child sexual abuse by clergymen, whose story was taken to the cinema in the film Spootlight.
And the question that arises from all these situations is, weren’t there cases like this before? Why didn’t we know? Were we blind? How could the dynamics of the cover-up go so far? When faced with questions such as these, multiple and varied answers could be offered, which are very important to prevent the recurrence of similar cases: abuse of power, deformations in the concept of authority, secrecy, lack of accountability, real perfectly organized cover-up systems, etc. But in this reflection we are not so much interested in the explanation of the fact itself, but rather in how from all this suffering, from all these situations of pain, we can project a positive vision for the present and for the future. This is what we could call a renewed commitment to good treatment.
Today we are witnessing multiple situations of violence: physical, psychological, sexual, emotional, individual, collective, direct, indirect or structural among others. And the call that all these different forms of violence are making to us is to a change that must be orchestrated in our globalized world in all dimensions of society. Some concrete steps could be: moving from shouting to dialogue; moving from aggression and hitting to reflection; moving from threat to teaching; moving from discussion to conversation; moving from abuse of power to reasoned conviction with arguments; moving from sexual abuse to respect for the person; moving from concealment to transparency. And these first steps for change have several primary scenarios: the family, the school, and the Church. These three scenarios constitute environments of trust that, necessarily, must be safe spaces, where no situation of violence or abuse of any kind can take place. Along these lines, a recent summit was held in the heart of the Catholic Church in which the Pope brought together the presidents of all the Episcopal Conferences to address this necessary change with regard to the sexual abuse of minors within the Church. It is a first step, but much remains to be done.
However, structural changes are of no use without a previous element: the necessary personal conversion of each one of us, the conviction that the person and his dignity is a good to be always defended, without the end justifying the means, without selfishness being put in the first place, without evil having the last word.
Uncovering evil makes us aware of the pain, of the need to ask for forgiveness and of the responsibility to accompany the victims. But it must also lead us to a necessary change, to a renewed commitment to good treatment, to the person, to society and to humanity. We have a new opportunity to improve as human beings, in our relationships, in our responsibilities, in our personal convictions. Let us take advantage of it.
Antonio Carrón de la Torre OAR