2021-01-12 SPAIN

The Marists of Catalonia are grateful for the courage of the victims of abuse

In January 2020, the Marist Brothers of Catalonia, Province of the Hermitage, signed an agreement with the association “Mans Petites” to create a commission to assess prescribed cases of abuse in Marist schools. The Commission for the Reception of Victims of Sexual Abuse of Prescribed Cases, financed by the Marists, has analysed 25 cases and announced its conclusions on the 10th December in Barcelona (see details in the video).

Motivated by the conviction affirmed at the last General Chapter that “abuse is the very antithesis of our Marist values, and undermines the very purpose of our Institute”, the Brothers are grateful for the courage of the victims for having spoken to the members of the Commission and for having expressed in words what they have experienced. The Marists consider that it is a process focused on reparation and that is why it is essential to give credibility to the victims’ word, and to recognise them in their dignity. Responding to victims of prescribed sexual abuse is a moral duty.

Once the conclusions have been published, Brothers Pere Ferré, Provincial, and Gabriel Villa-Real, Provincial Delegate for the Protection of Children, have published the note that we transcribe below.


The courage of the word in the service of truth

The conclusions of the Commission on the response to the victims of sexual abuse of prescribed cases are already public. The will of the Marist Brothers and the “Mans Petites” Association established this Commission. We now want to explain to you the context and we want to present you our reflection.

An independent commission: listening and acknowledgement

The Commission was established on the 30th of January 2020 and it is the result of an agreement between the Marist Brothers and the “Mans Petites” Association in order to assist all the persons who have not been able to go to court because the abuse that they denounced had been prescribed. The aim of the Commission has been to evaluate the plausibility of the denounced facts, evaluate the psychological damage and its consequences for these people, collect all the information they may present, and if applicable, establish financial repair for the damages.

The members of the Commission had been independent professionals with recognized standing, experts in the care of victims of sexual abuse of children and youth: Mr. Xavier Puigdollers, layer; Mrs. Dolors Petitbó, psychologist, and Mrs. Montserrat Bravo, psychologist.

The Commission has received 25 people. These interviews have taken place during March, July, and September of 2020. The work of the Commission has not been a legal process, with no process or trial; therefore, there have not been convictions or absolutions. The aim of the Commission has been to acknowledge the victims and listen to them.

The legal prescription is not equivalent to forgetting or losing moral responsibility

Neither the Spanish judicial system nor the Spanish social structures nor the Spanish Church has enough mechanisms to care for the victims of the prescribed cases or to provide global answers. And we believe that the legal prescription does not mean to forget or lose moral responsibility. It was necessary to create some room to listen to the people that cannot appeal to the justice because of the prescribed cases; and this is what we have done.

The victims are the centre point

The victims are the priority, and the urgency has been to listen to them and acknowledge them. Taking the institutional responsibility supposes to take responsibility of our history (with its riches and poverty) in spite of our disapproval of certain ways of doing, of not doing or of not having known what to do. The existence of victims reminds us that we have failed as Institution.

We can get the proper perspective when the look is directed at the victims of sexual abuse and they are placed in the focus of attention. A perspective that allows us to detect the suffering inflicted. If we have been the substantial part of the problem, we have to take on the task of being part of the solution after a transparent sincere acknowledgement.

The courage of the word in the service of truth

The aim of the Commission has been to listen to the victims and give credibility to their word. It is a process focused on repair; therefore, it has been crucial to acknowledge the dignity of the victims.  The Commission, as a neutral third party, has allowed that the victims may say their word and to be listened to. Professionals who have experience in cases of this typology have received the people who have decided to go to the Commission. We acknowledge the courage of the victims for putting words of their lived experience. We also acknowledge the pain and suffering caused to those people in the framework of the Marist Institution.

The Commission has established the resolutions in an individual way. Each of the 25 people received by the Commission has been given the Commission assessment and a personal letter from the Provincial of the Marist Brothers and the Provincial Delegate of the Protection of the Child. In this letter, we express the acknowledgement of the victims from the Marist Institution. In addition, we express our availability of meeting each of them if they want to do that.

Perspective of reparation

Focusing the listening and the acknowledgement of the victims with a perspective of repair supposes to acknowledge the facts and that person as a victim; to acknowledge and take responsibilities that come from these facts; to acknowledge our failure as Institution; to ask forgiveness, and to set up all the necessary means to avoid the repetition of similar facts.

The Commission helps the financial repair to be a transparent process and it prevents that someone may think that it is an economic transaction aimed to close the issue behind the scenes as soon as possible.

After a process of listening, this individual repair allows to put in evidence each story taking into account each personal itinerary.

A change of institutional culture: which lessons we have learnt and what we are doing to avoid the repetition.

We are immersed in a change of institutional culture long ago. In the Marist schools, we specifically work the rights of the child many years and every 20th November we celebrate as a net the anniversary of the Convention since 2009. In 2011, the Institute of the Marist Brothers calls up all the Marist provinces to have all the necessary tools to ensure the protection of the child and the youth. And, in 2013, the Marist Province of L’Hermitage (which Catalonia belongs to) passes a policy and a protocol that you can find in the “Guía para la protección de los niños.”

The policy and the protocols of protection and prevention have the aim, among others, to create sure surroundings. We know that you cannot get 100% of security in any place. In this framework, we work in a proactive way on the promotion, prevention and protection of the boys, girls, and the youngsters. The data from the last years shows that the work of prevention pays off. More and more we find boys, girls and youngsters that report situations of abuse, most of them in the family environment. From a rights perspective, we privilege the tools and resources needed to empower them.

From the last few years, at Marist schools and at Marist social works, we work pedagogical programs fitted to all ages in order to offer the children and the youth the knowledge and the appropriate awareness to be able to explain and denounce any abuse situation. The campaign “Break the silence” helps to awake this conscience. We offer specialized formation on child protection to all the educators in all the Marist educational works. We communicate our institutional policy of child protection in our web www.maristes.cat and in various publications. In the same web, you can find a listening channel for explanations, suggestions, or questions. All the Marist educational works in Catalonia are in the process of getting a double certification on child protection with two international entities of recognized standings as UNICEF (recognition) and Keeping Children Safe (certification).

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Br. Pere Ferré – Provincial of L’Hermitage
Br. Gabriel Villa-Real – Provincial Delegate of the Protection of the Child
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Barcelona, 10th December 2020

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