Religious women help launch program to combat sexual abuse, ‘create a culture of care’

Religious women help launch program to combat sexual abuse, ‘create a culture of care’

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CNA Staff, Jun 3, 2024 / 14:25 pm (CNA).

Religious sisters and consecrated women in collaboration with Catholic organizations launched an e-learning program recently to combat the abuse crisis in the Church.

There are more than half a million religious sisters and consecrated women worldwide. While incidents of abuse still happen in the Church, recent studies show that the number of clergy abuse incidents have decreased sharply since the 1970s and 1980s.

Launched with the help of religious sisters and consecrated women on May 24, the e-learning program helps educate women religious on how to protect children and vulnerable adults from sexual abuse situations.

“By focusing on the fundamental principles of faith, vows, and community, this initiative aims to give religious women around the world the means to defend the dignity and to protect minors and vulnerable adults in many different contexts,” the press release read.

The e-learning tool was a collaboration with Sister Jane Wakahiu, head of the Catholic Sisters Initiative of the Hilton Foundation, and Sister Patricia Murray of the International Union of Superiors General as well as Father Hans Zollner, who heads the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Institute for Anthropology (IADC).

“We aim to cultivate holistic formation that upholds a culture that respects the dignity and protection of minors and vulnerable adults in our communities while making the training available to sisters worldwide,” Wakahiu said in the press release.

The program, developed by religious sisters, is geared toward educating women religious by introducing “safeguarding” as a core element in their religious formation and service.

“Through this shared commitment, we hope that safeguarding is viewed as not just an addition to one’s religious formation but as a fundamental element of it,” Zollner stated. 

For more than 12 years, the IADC has offered e-learning initiatives to teach safeguarding and sexual abuse prevention. The collaboration of “an interdisciplinary team of international experts” including religious women “marks an important milestone,” according to the press release.

The program explores the themes of “My Faith, My Vows, and My Community” and incorporates them with the idea of “safeguarding.” Versions of the e-learning tool in other languages will be released in the near future. 

“Making the link between faith, vows, community, and safeguarding emphasizes our responsibility as women religious to create a culture of care wherever we are,” Murray said.