Safeguarding of Children and Vulnerable Adults
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Life in all its fullness
A Statement on Creating a Positive and Safe Culture in Mission and Ministry
Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. (Mt 19:14)
Involvement in the mission of evangelization, especially of children, young people and vulnerable adults is truly a privilege. It brings us into the core of the gospel. While every person is a gift, children and young people are a particular joy and are a sign of hope for the future. Our Founder, Blessed Edmund Rice is recorded to have used the phrase ‘dear little ones’ when referring to those with whom he and his Brothers engaged.
Along with the privilege of our mission comes the desire, indeed responsibility, to provide the best we can to create safe and joyful environments for wholesome and holistic development.
In our commitment to be ‘good news’, we Christian Brothers see the provision of creative, positive, healthy and safe experiences for learning and growth as fundamental to the mission that has been entrusted to us by the Church.
This statement is intended to apply to us, Christian Brothers, in our daily lives. It also challenges us to create a culture of safeguarding within the Congregation. With regard to this latter purpose, Leadership Teams throughout the Congregation need to ensure that their own policies, practices and protocols are consistent with this statement.
In seeing education as part of the broader understanding of life, we engage in a variety of activities, all of which are inspired by the vision, values and example of Jesus who described his purpose as bringing us to life in all its fullness (John 10:10). In this regard the following excerpts from the Constitutions of the Congregation are relevant:
In our mission of evangelization, we endeavour to proclaim gospel values, to affirm the dignity of all people and to work for justice and peace. (Cons. 26)
We are constantly challenged in our educational ministries to develop curricula which promote the harmonious growth of the whole person a synthesis of faith, life and culture. (Cons. 27)
It is clear from the above, that to be effective in ministry, we Christian Brothers need to be enthusiastically proactive in creating a joyful culture of mission that is both professional and steeped in the gospel.
In terms of professionalism, it is necessary that each of us is personally suitable for the ministry in which he is involved, and is appropriately trained and qualified. Our engagement with others, especially children and vulnerable adults, obliges us to be: culturally sensitive, respectful, competent, skilled, creative, open to a variety of approaches and continually updating ourselves.
Each of us is called to be so immersed in the Spirit that our lives are characterised by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (c.f. Gal 5: 22-23).
Only when we have done our own ‘inner work’ in personal growth can we truly become mature disciples with something to offer to others.
Experience has shown us that emotional, physical and sexual abuse of children in the care of Christian Brothers has been a tragic and all too common feature in the Congregation’s history. No apology on behalf of the Congregation can ever be enough. No amount of redress and no condemnation of the appalling actions of Brothers and others will come near to healing the lifelong hurt and harm inflicted upon innocent young people.
The Congregation of Christian Brothers is committed to creating a culture of safety for children and vulnerable adults. Our proactive stance helps towards the creation of safe environments at all of our ministry sites and in all of our communities where all are protected. We achieve this through the educative task of raising awareness and putting good policies and processes in place, so that there is shared ownership of the task. All need to be aware of their responsibilities. Developing a culture of safety for children and vulnerable adults needs to be a priority for all Brothers in the Congregation. While no policy can be a watertight guarantee of safety, good policies and practices contribute much to the reduction of risk of the occurrence of harmful behaviour.
With Pope Francis, we believe that
Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.
(Pope Francis Letter to the People of God, 20 August 2018, Introduction)
The position of the Church is very clear, having been stated again by Pope Francis in May 2019:
The crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful. In order that these phenomena, in all their forms, never happen again, a continuous and profound conversion of hearts is needed, attested by concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the Church.
(Pope Francis «Motu Proprio» Vos Estis Lux Mundi, 7 May 2019, Introduction)
The communities of the Congregation are grouped into provinces. The responsibility for each province is entrusted to a Province Leader. (Constitution 81)
The Constitutions of the Congregation of Christian Brothers states the Congregation Leader is a visible reminder of our unity as a Congregation and that he will respect the authority of other levels of governance within the Congregation.
Each Province will create and maintain a Safeguarding Policy that is compliant with the local requirements of the Church and the civil authorities. Each Brother is responsible for adhering to the policies of the Province to which he belongs. Brothers are also responsible for adhering to the policies and requirements of the Province, the civil authorities, and any Institution in the location where they live and/or are engaged in ministry.
Province Safeguarding policies should regularly be reviewed and updated.
Each Province will have an office or an individual assigned to oversee the ongoing implementation of the Safeguarding policy.
Congregation Leadership Team, Congregation of Christian Brothers
Updated February, 2021.