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Thai Catholic youth discuss clerical sexual abuse

Zoom conference had participants from Singapore and the Philippines besides Thailand

A priest waits for devotees at a confession area in the Holy Redeemer Church compound in Bangkok on May 9, 2021

A priest waits for devotees at a confession area in the Holy Redeemer Church compound in Bangkok on May 9, 2021. (Photo: AFP)

Published: June 01, 2022 06:07 AM GMT

Updated: June 02, 2022 09:13 AM GMT

An online event to inform and raise awareness about protecting minors and vulnerable people from sexual abuse was organized by MAGIS Thailand, a Catholic youth group committed to applying Ignatian spirituality in their daily lives.

Angela Rinaldi, a lecturer at the Institute of Anthropology: Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care (IADC), previously the Center for Child Protection (CCP), at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, was invited to be the keynote speaker at the May 27 event.

The focus was the sexual abuse and abuse of power within the Catholic Church, with several participants from Singapore and the Philippines joining their counterparts from Thailand during the Zoom conference.

Kittiya Wu, a programmer in her thirties from Bangkok, said: “We bear the same cross. Therefore, we must care for and help restore the Church’s credibility among Catholics as well as non-believers.”

Natthanon Nakro, a 25-year-old college student from Ramkhamhaeng University in Bangkok, felt a need to fill the knowledge gap on the critical issue.

“From the laity’s perspective, it [sexual abuse in the Church] is mysterious. Normally, we focus on the liturgy. The parish does not bring this issue to the table. So, we must stay curious,” he said.

“What I like is that this talk acts as an open space where everyone could discuss and speak their mind"

An independent scholar, who preferred to stay anonymous, pointed out: “As I recall, I have never seen a discussion about this topic [sexual abuse] to inform and raise public awareness.”

Participants appreciated Rinaldi’s elaboration of what the Church’s obligations are and what it is doing regarding the conduct of preliminary investigations according to its procedures.

“What I like is that this talk acts as an open space where everyone could discuss and speak their mind,” Natthanon said.

In Thailand, discussion of sexual matters in public is considered taboo. The data and details of abuse cases committed by church members in the Southeast Asian country remain unknown, though their existence is acknowledged.

Thai society treats ordained men as superior to laypersons, which leads to the embedding of clericalist attitudes and contributes to abuses. It is believed that laypeople should not be involved in the problems related to monks and nuns as they know very little.

The online conference considered all these factors and the challenges posed by them in safeguarding and protecting children and other vulnerable people.

Cultural factors also need to be considered while combating abuses, which is an ongoing process that requires all church members to be involved, it was concluded.

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