Safeguarding at the heart of our mission

Pope Francis and Leonard Moloney SJ
Pope Francis and Leonard Moloney SJ

During his private meeting with Irish Jesuits in Dublin last weekend, Pope Francis was asked by the Irish Provincial Fr Leonard Moloney SJ if there was anything the Irish Jesuits could help him with in line with their Fourth Vow – special obedience to the pontiff. The pope responded by asking them directly to help to address clerical sexual abuse, with the healing process and with the reparative work that needs to be done.

Reflection on the scandal of abuse and penitence for the misery and damage caused to so many by Church institutions and individuals, was a strong theme during the pope’s 36 hour visit.

"I cannot fail to acknowledge the grave scandal caused in Ireland by the abuse of young people by members of the Church charged with responsibility for their protection and education," the Pope told political leaders at Dublin Castle. "The failure of ecclesiastical authorities - bishops, religious superiors, priests and others - adequately to address these repellent crimes has rightly given rise to outrage, and remains a source of pain and shame for the Catholic community," he said.

The pope’s comments followed his recent Letter to the People of God on 20th August in which he vowed to “awaken our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says 'never again' to every form of abuse.”

Jesuits in Britain safeguarding

Kevin Barry

The Jesuits in Britain have tried to be at the forefront of promoting safeguarding and had established their own safeguarding commission before the Nolan report of 2001. A key role is that of the independent lay chairperson. Current Chair Mr Kevin Barry explained: “The Chair’s role is critical. It is not just about chairing meetings but also about bringing professional expertise to bear.”

Mr Barry is now retired from a long career in the probation service. “I am a Catholic”, he went on, “but you do not have to be a Catholic to serve on the commission. The Chair brings a combination of casework experience as a practitioner, and a big picture overview to ensure the Jesuits receive the best advice possible on best practice from a professional point of view.”

Jesuits in Britain are recruiting a new Chair to replace Kevin who has been in his role for five years. He would encourage people to consider applying for this crucial role, especially at this time of great challenge for the Church: “I had never worked with the Jesuits before,” he observed, “And I like working with them. They don’t always agree with me, but they respect my professionalism and experience, and there is no clericalism.”

Kevin is proud to leave behind a strong commission of eight members “they are all good, thoughtful, active people with a good balance of skills and experience who contribute constructively. I believe assembling this commission is my greatest achievement of the last five years and now it is time to move on and allow someone with new energy and a fresh approach to lead this important ministry, especially at this really challenging time.”

The Chair of the Safeguarding Commission is an unpaid role working alongside the Provincial and Trustees and the province’s safeguarding officer.

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