The Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome (Photo credit: Luigi Santoro via Wikimedia Commons)
Beginning in the spring of 2016, Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University will begin offering an intensive one-semester diploma program on the safeguarding of minors and the prevention of sex abuse by clergy.
A new one semester diploma course in the protection of minors is being offered by the Center for Child Protection in Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, and is set to welcome its first round of applicants in February, 2016.
“There are not courses like this diploma in pontifical universities in Rome. Certainly programs in secular universities and in UK have them, but (this is a) first in pontifical and Catholic universities,” Father Hans Zollner, SJ said at the June 24 announcement of the course.
Fr Zollner is the president of the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Center for Child Protection (CCP) and is a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, created by Pope Francis last autumn.
He was present alongside three other panelists for a press conference at the conclusion of the center’s June 21-24 annual Anglophone Conference, during which the diploma course was announced.
The diploma will be awarded at the close of a one-semester residential course on the safeguarding of minors. The program aims to form persons who will eventually become child protection officers for dioceses, religious congregations, and similar organizations, as well as advisors and trainers in the field of safeguarding.
Broken down into six two-week seminars, the first course is set to run from February to June 2016. Seminars will delve into topics including terms and definitions surrounding the protection of minors, child rights, development and safety, safeguarding and prevention, theology, truth and justice, and care for those who have been abused.
Comprised of 30 credits, the course will welcome between 15 and 18 applicants. The diploma will be awarded by the Institute of Psychology of the Pontifical Gregorian University, which founded the CCP in 2012.
Fr Zollner emphasized that the program is “not meant mostly for America or Canada, but is flexible enough to take in a cultural component,” due to the different concept of boundaries in particular cultures.
He expressed his hope that participants would come not just from Western nations where policies are already in place, but especially “from countries where there are no or very little such initiatives, especially in Africa, Asia and South America”.
In addition to exploring the psychological, pastoral, canonical, and practical approaches to safeguarding minors, the course will also address a systematic theological approach to the topic.
The spiritual and theological approach to child protection was the theme of the CCP’s conference, and is a topic Fr Zollner noted has “not been substantially reflected upon” since the full gravity of the clerical abuse crisis began to surface 40 years ago.
Fr Zollner said that “strangely enough,” no theologian has really taken on the task of developing a theological understanding of the issue, and that while preparing for last week’s conference none of the five speakers were able to find a single study on it.
“We have spiritual literature, pastoral literature, psycho-pastoral literature, we have practical theological literature and a little bit on moral theological literature, but theological, Christological, ecclesiological, almost nothing. And this is really a surprise,” he said.
*This article has been edited for length
Source: Catholic News Agency