Progress report on the work of the Commission for the Prevention and Fight against Abuse

In 2019, the Emmanuel Community created a ‘Commission to Prevent and Fight against Abuse’ (CLA) to make formal the efforts and procedures already adopted. To keep you informed both within the Community and externally, a summary follows of the work carried out and the actions of the Commission during 2020.

A situation which is changing ever more quickly

For several years, in association with the Church, the Emmanuel Community has been firmly committed to the fight against all forms of abuse – of power, of conscience, and of sexuality, carried out mainly on minors and vulnerable people. The various stages in this process are as follows:

–  2008: Implementation of the first measures as agents of the concern to act in the protection of minors and vulnerable people during the summer sessions at Paray-le-Monial.

– 2016: A full audit of the preventive system put in place during the summer sessions at Paray-le-Monial.

Raising awareness among the Heads of Provinces by circulating the audit.

2017: Monitoring of the system and implementation of additional measures.

October 2017: setting up a listening email address on the Community website ( (https://emmanuel.info/contacts/110308/)

September 2018: following Pope Francis’s “Letter to the People of God” published in August 2018, the General Moderator wrote to all members of the Community to encourage them ever more to get involved in the fight against abuse.

In this process, the Community took part in exchanges and sharing with the CEF and various Church movements and communities.

Early 2019: Redrafting of the internal procedures and launching of the Emmanuel Community’s Commission for the Prevention and Fight against Abuse (CLA).

13th June 2019: the Community participated in a study day for associations and communities organized in Rome by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, on the following theme: “The prevention of sexual abuse – the commitment of Church associations and movements”.

December 2019: Posting on its web-site of all the rules and procedures established by the Emmanuel Community (link: https://emmanuel.info/que-faire-en-cas-dabus-sexuel-abus-de-pouvoir-ou-de-conscience)

The awareness shared with many other movements has permitted broader work of mutual enrichment for a better implementation of this grave subject for society.

At the same time, the Commission for the Prevention and Fight against Abuse has initiated internal training and awareness-raising so that ‘this will never happen again’ (Pope Francis).

Reminder regarding the current plan

An International Steering Committee coordinates the entire anti-abuse system. It is chaired by the General Moderator, accompanied by a vice-president. It has 15 members including 3 from outside the Community (a lawyer, a psychiatrist and a priest). The mission of this Committee is to organize the operation of the overall system and to monitor and evaluate its implementation. It meets twice a year.

In France, the Commission for the Fight against Abuse (CLA) also includes 2 entities:

 – A Listening Unit, made up of 8 members, whose mission is to organize listening to people who contact it, and to report situations to the Instruction and Deliberation Unit. It organizes the training and supervision of listeners.

 – An Instruction and Deliberation Unit, composed of 7 members, whose mission is to investigate the files sent to it. This Unit meets once a month and whenever necessary. It makes decisions regarding reported situations and monitors their execution. To do so, it works in close collaboration with a lawyer and regularly takes internal and external advice from the competent services (legal and canon law services). It also remains attentive to the psychological and human dimension of each situation. The Instruction and Deliberation Unit organizes internal training for members of the Community.

Situations reported in 2020

In France in 2020, 13 cases were reported via the Listening Unit email address and 6 others were reported via the CLA email address.

– Two third of the situations were notified by members of the Emmanuel Community and one third by outsiders.

– 10 cases concerned alleged sexual abuse and another 9 concerned alleged abuse of power and of conscience.

– The 19 situations were spread over the years 2000 to 2020. They involved 11 lay people, 7 of whom are members of the Community and 8 priests, 6 of whom are members of the Community.

– 12 cases were in family, friendly or association frameworks outside the Community, while 7 others were within the Community.

The actions carried out by the Commission were as follows:

 – In some cases, in accordance with legal obligations, the Commission referred the matter to the competent authorities, civil and ecclesial,

– When it was necessary, the Commission asked those in charge of the Community to take the necessary measures adapted to the situations or to the people involved, with a particular care for the presumed victims. The Commission ensures the implementation and follow-up of these measures.

Awareness and mobilization

In 2020, the Commission for the Prevention and Fight against Abuse organized internal awareness-raising actions that concerned:

– as part of the July 2020 seminar, 4 cases where the government of the Emmanuel Community (around 65 people) continued the work initiated in 2019 on the issue of abuse.

– in October 2020, the companions of priests

– in November 2020, the heads of the provinces and major services (around 100 people)

The Commission also participated in the drafting and reimplementation of charters and procedures for all the missions organized by the Emmanuel Community.

First observations

A first assessment allows us to make the following reappraisal:

– The Listening Unit made it easier for complainants or witnesses to speak out. It is complementary to the paths offered for speaking out or signalling by dioceses, victims associations as well as civil authorities. The multiple existences of these places for listening or signalling are essential in order to overcome the ordeal of a complainant or witness speaking out.

– Depending on the situation, with an absolute respect for the civil law in force in the country and for canon law, the Commission must inform the competent bodies, which alone are empowered to open a judicial or canonical investigation.

– The Commission systematically reminds presumed victims and witnesses of the possibility of seeking legal redress, independently of their actions via the Community.

– Faced with the drama of abuse, it is necessary to raise awareness of the mechanisms involved and the actions to be taken to deal with abuse.

– The reappraisal of situations makes it possible to work more and more on the implementation of the exercise of authority within the Emmanuel Community.

– The question of confidentiality necessitates a common reflection in order that it is not invoked to justify a lack of signalling of the abuse denounced.

Perspectives

The Commission for the Prevention and Fight against Abuse (CLA) is pursuing with determination the work undertaken within the Emmanuel Community.

A reflection is underway to better support people affected by abuse, whether victims or perpetrators.

A charter will be developed and put in place shortly for listening and prayer missions during events organized by the Community (prayer groups, weekends and sessions).

In France, and in all the countries where the community is present, awareness-raising actions will continue to be offered. The Commission for the Prevention and Fight against Abuse (CLA)  will continue to coordinate and support actions carried out by local communities.

Internationally, each zone and each country is working to deploy its own approach to prevention and signalling, according to a reference framework common to the Emmanuel Community which defines the general principles in fighting against all forms of abuse. Each person with responsibilities is required to familiarize themselves with the legislation in force in their country and the procedures put in place by the local Church.

We remain conscious that the effectiveness of what is undertaken within the Emmanuel Community will depend essentially on the ability to make the greatest number of people involved in its prevention and signalling. This is the concern of everyone, respecting individuals and presuming innocence and the relevant law.

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