ROME – Mexico’s Catholic University continues to train members of the Catholic Church in addressing the clerical sexual abuse crisis, with a second diploma course on abuse prevention in the Latin American Church.

Organized by the Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Training for the Protection of Children (CEPROME), the Jan. 20-Feb 14, 2020 course is an intensive training for bishops, priests, religious brothers and sisters and lay people who are committed to safeguarding.

Lecturers include Spanish priest Jordi Bertomeu, an official of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith who played a key role in addressing the clerical abuse crisis facing the Chilean Church; Jose Andres Murillo, a philosopher and abuse survivor from Chile; and Father Daniel Portillo, the director and founder of CEPROME.

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In addition, there are abuse survivors who are addressing the 150 students coming from all over Latin America each Wednesday to guarantee that, as Portillo put it, “we don’t act because we need to save face, making a cosmetic renovation, but because we have a real concern as a global church to address this matter urgently.”

Speaking with Crux on Monday, he said that the scope of the course is to generate a “solid training through people who, specialized in several areas, can offer other countries the possibility of deepening their knowledge.”

Portillo said it’s also important that each country creates offices and ecclesial councils that can confront abuse, and that each bishops’ conference, diocese and religious family does so “because we have a moral obligation to protect our children,” and not simply because “the Vatican told us we have to do something.”

He stressed that “interdisciplinary training is important to address the issue of abuse specifically, and the way to combat these types of cases is through training.”

For this reason, several aspects to better address the crisis are being considered, such as canonical and civil legislation; the clinical and psychiatric impact abuse has for the victims; the sociological ramifications; the importance of communication; and the theological dimension of the Church’s crisis.

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“A first step that the Church must take to be able to implement prevention is training: Our laity, our ecclesial community must be trained and aware of the situation and the damage abuse causes,” he said.

Of the participants, 50 come from Mexico, and the rest from every other corner of the continent: This  includes countries such as Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, currently facing challenging socio-economic situations. Their participation was possible, Portillo said, thanks to the financial help of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to fund scholarships.

“It’s surprising to hear, even today, that there are some who believe that their countries are immune to this crisis,” Portillo said with palpable frustration. “We know for a fact that this is a global problem: Abuse knows nothing about borders or nationalities.”

Changing this perception, he said, has been “a stonemason’s work,” similar to “chopping stone,” one hammer stroke at a time, generating conscience.

Over 50 applicants had to be rejected, because there simply wasn’t enough room to accommodate everyone. For this reason, Portillo hopes to be able to organize a third edition soon, which would mostly be a repetition of the ongoing course.

Registration was open to everyone, but letters of recommendation from national bishops’ conferences or religious orders were taken into account, to guarantee the impact of the seminar. Priority was given to those who were trying to open national networks of safeguarding.

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma

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