Safeguarding and the Call for Justice – Changing our World
Hallam Catholic Safeguarding Commission Annual Gathering
Some messages from the day
“Safeguarding is not bolted on but is vital to the mission of the church”
Judge Michael Murphy
“The cornerstone of gospel, a uniqueness of being human, a responsibility for justice and the offer of hope”
Chris Pearson, Acting Chair National Catholic Safeguarding Commission
“You should make hospitality your special care”
Bishop Ralph, St Paul to the Romans 12:1-2.9-18
“Faith communities have the largest voice, together, to engage with all, for the safety and protection of all”
An audience member
“It’s a story for justice, right at the heart of the gospel message and affects everybody”
Liam Harron, Justice and Peace Commission
“May we know your love in our lives”
Fr Martin Trask
The event was held at St Patrick’s, Sheffield Lane Top and began with Mass in St Patrick’s School Hall. Opening prayers were said by Fr Martin Trask, Dean of Sheffield North, who asked “may we know your love in our lives”.
In introducing the event Lisa Markham, Diocesan Safeguarding Coordinator, reminded those present about the ‘Towards a Culture of Safeguarding’ standards. Towards a Culture of Safeguarding requires a collaborative approach between clergy and lay people, and the sharing of the gifts and talents of all. She suggested that the event represented how working together is an essential safeguarding requirement. A question was posed to her the week before; ‘Is there room for flexibility and discretion in implementing Towards a Culture of Safeguarding?’ Her answer was “Yes, as long as we do it somehow, and continue to keep embedding safeguarding in our culture and encourage the hospitality and warmth that is central to Church life”.
A very warm applause in welcome was provided to Munir Hussain from Rotherham Interfaith Safeguarding Network, who was attending with members of his family and network with a message of hope from sisters and brothers in the Islamic communities.
Christopher Pearson, Link Member to the Commission and Acting Chair of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission, began his input on national and diocesan issues by introducing the National commission itself, which was established in 2008 following the Cumberlege Review of Safeguarding. Its role is to provide strategic direction to the Church’s safeguarding policies.
Recognising the need for “a changing shape of how we commission in collaboration with those we work with”, the aim is to create more successful partnerships that are based on “the cornerstone of gospel, a uniqueness of being human, a responsibility for justice and the offer of hope”.
He also discussed the need for presenting a “compelling and coherent safeguarding theology”.
He then encouraged participants to see the Goddard Enquiry into institutional sexual abuse as a positive step; that it is about being held to account and gives us a chance to atone. It also provides the opportunity for us to show how far we have come in ensuring theology and actions.
Chris described Pope Francis’ message of hope. In the Letter to All Presidents of Bishops Conferences and Religious Orders, February 2015, His Holiness says that the Church has a “duty to express the compassion of Jesus toward those who have suffered abuse and toward their families”, which is why each diocese and religious order should set up pastoral care programmes “which include provisions for reconciliation and healing for those who were abused”.
Priests and heads of religious communities “should be available to meet victims and their loved ones; such meetings are valuable opportunities for listening to those who have greatly suffered and for asking their forgiveness”, he wrote.
Chris pointed out that survivors and victims are a part of the Church, not ‘the other’, and that “Safeguarding is everyone’s business, at the centre of the Church’s mission. It is not just a procedural process and duty but the will of God to love, care and protect those who are at risk or marginalised. Victims come first and are at the heart of what we do.”
He thanked the Diocese of Hallam for initiating and leading the Hurt by Abuse project which listens to victims. He encouraged us to see the unique position that the Diocese finds itself in with the Rotherham abuse scandal on our doorstep but also recognising that this abuse occurs worldwide.
Cath Ratcliffe, a member of the Hallam Catholic Safeguarding Commission, summarised Chris’ talk with a reflection on the local scene and an important message that, “We need to listen to our intuition and not ignore things that we feel are wrong and seek support in the Deanery”. She also highlighted the need to focus on prevention. Overall, she emphasised that “we should keep going because we are doing a good job”.
Cath and Dave Coefield, both Local Safeguarding Representatives and Commission members were formally thanked for their unpaid contribution to Towards a Culture of Safeguarding training. Sheila Marren, Local Safeguarding Representative in Hoyland and also a volunteer trainer, was not present due to illness but her contribution was acknowledged.
Liam Harron and Chrissy Meleady, and colleagues from the Hallam Justice and Peace Commission who co-produced ‘Voices of Despair, Voices of Hope’, gave readings direct from those who have experienced sexual exploitation.
They emphasised the need to listen to people because “if they cannot tell their story uncensored then they feel dirty, that it is their fault. They need to feel confident to speak out”, even though the stories are not always easy to hear. “Speaking out allows them to feel like good is coming out of bad. It’s a story for justice, right at the heart of the gospel message and affects everybody”.
Chrissy concluded by thanking the Diocese of Hallam for its “ground-breaking work in learning how to listen. It was the Diocese of Hallam that stood with us when no one else wanted to support us or hear us. The reconciliation started here, not only for survivors but also for the Church. And from there it will be rolled out across the world.”
After a quick comfort break, Bob Levesley, a Learning and Development Consultant and Local Safeguarding Representative, who has previously been a Senior Social Worker, enthusiastically took up the topic of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 implemented from 2010. The Act supports decision making for people who lack capacity, allows preparation for future decision making and covers people caring for others (whether professionally or not). “The Act applies to everyone who looks after, or cares for, someone who lacks capacity – this includes family carers or other carers” (Mental Capacity Act Code of Practice page 2).
Bob said that the Act can be seen as hard to implement because “we are used to intervening with children but adults are seen to be in control, therefore it is culturally difficult to intervene with adult decision making.” Although it does mean that the provision of care in the future can be based on “what is important to me now?”
He notes that capacity relates to “individual decisions, not all decisions”, is time flexible, and he joked that “there are a lot of people who didn’t have capacity on Friday night who do now. Things change. Adults get to choose unless there is a ‘reasonable belief’ through an investigation that they do or don’t have capacity for that specific decision. We should ask ourselves:
Can the person
- Understand the decision?
- Weigh up the pros and cons?
- Remember any relevant information?
- And communicate it with you (not necessarily verbally)?”
If still unsure about mental capacity, Bob emphasises the need to go away and have a think about why you are worried, write down your thoughts, ask for help from the Safeguarding Office or visit https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/caresupport/adult/adult-abuse/professionals/mcadols/mental-capacity-act.html.
A plenary was then led by Judge Michael Murphy, Co-Chair of the Hallam Catholic Safeguarding Commission, who thanked all the speakers for setting the tone that “safeguarding is not bolted on but is vital to the mission of the church”. “What we didn’t realise was the effect abuse was having on people. As a Judge, I can tell you that cases are changing – there are many more abuse cases, which shows a change in mind-set. Safeguarding is what the Church is about. Everyone here is a VIP in safeguarding: invested, focused enough to attend on a Saturday morning.”
Questions were then asked from the floor. Liam Harron was asked about the situation in Rotherham. He said there was ongoing interfaith mediation between the communities, and that because there was a mixing of child sexual exploitation and racism cases, that it is a particularly dangerous time.
Invited to comment on the Muslim perspective, Munir Hussain said “What is the point of society if we don’t know how justly we can hear victim’s voices? How we treat victims is a reflection of how we are judged as a society. Faith communities have the largest voice, together, to engage with all, for the safety and protection of all”, which cemented the key ideas about partnerships heard from Chris Pearson earlier in the morning.
In his closing reflection, Bishop Ralph Heskett offered his personal thanks to all involved for being present and for efforts throughout the year, and provided a reading of the letter of St Paul to the Romans 12:1-2.9-18:
“Think of God’s mercy, my brothers, and worship him, I beg you, in a way that is worthy of thinking beings, by offering your living bodies as a holy sacrifice, truly pleasing to God. Do not model yourselves on the behaviour of the world around you, but let your behaviour change, modelled by your new mind. This is the only way to discover the will of God and know what is good, what it is that God wants, what is the perfect thing to do.
Do not let your love be a pretence, but sincerely prefer good to evil. Love each other as much as brothers should, and have a profound respect for each other. Work for the Lord with untiring effort and with great earnestness of spirit. If you have hope, this will make you cheerful. Do not give up if trials come; and keep on praying. If any of the saints are in need you must share with them; and you should make hospitality your special care.
Bless those who persecute you: never curse them, bless them. Rejoice with those who rejoice and be sad with those in sorrow. Treat everyone with equal kindness; never be condescending but make real friends with the poor. Do not allow yourself to become self-satisfied. Never repay evil with evil but let everyone see that you are interested only in the highest ideals. Do all you can to live at peace with everyone.”
Bishop Ralph closed the event by identifying that Paul’s understanding of the hallmarks of Christian life is hospitality and a warm welcome for everyone, and this is for us all to live up to.