Safeguarding – Vigilance during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the risk elements in the Church’s sexual abuse response, says Fr Hans Zollner SJ.

Zollner is the leading Rome based specialist in addressing the scourge of sex abuse in Catholic institutions.

With less money in circulation, he is urging civil and church societies not to blur their focus nor cut expenditure on safeguarding.

“I do hope that we in the church will go another way and really keep on investing in safeguarding because this is for the safety of those who need most protection”, he told Michael Kelly SJ.

“I think it is quite evident to many who are working in this field of safeguarding of minors and vulnerable adults that safeguarding has been relegated down the line because now the almost single focus is on health and the economy”, he said.

Zollner said that we all know that abuse is happening in all quarters of society.

Zollner said that unfortunately during the lockdown, society is seeing an increase in those reporting violent behaviours at home and that we can only presume that these behaviours are not only physical violence but sexual and physical violence too.

The very moment when these vulnerable people need more help the social systems can’t intervene and those who have been hurt have no place to go, he said.

Zollner told Michael Kelly that while the response varies from country to country, the most important thing the Church has learned is that in order to bring about justice it is important to listen to victims and that listening to victims helps change their attitude to life and helps people to heal.

“We cannot work in the area of safeguarding if you don’t really take seriously the concerns of victims”, Zollner said.

However, he says that these days every year the Catholic Church trains hundreds of thousands of people around the globe in safeguarding and that it is something that even in an economic downturn we really need to commit to seriously and persistently.

As Professor of Psychology at the Gregorian University in Rome Zollner is also a member of key Vatican committees and consults to national churches throughout the world.

Zollner has an unmatched body of experience and competence to say how the Church is handling the whole catastrophe of sexual abuse.

The Hans Zollner interview is the first in a new video series, “Flashes of Insight”, which features key personalities on issues that matter to Catholics.

Flashes of Insight is a collaboration between La Croix International and CathNews NZ.