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Victim counselor to US Bishops: Children have been betrayed

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Dr Heather T. Banis, Victim Assistance Coordinator for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, addresses US Bishops, offering insight into how to engage with victims and change the climate toward them.

By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

“They were children…and they were betrayed.” Dr Heather T Banis honestly addressed the US Bishops during their Fall General Assembly on Tuesday afternoon. Her remarks were based on her own experience as the Victims Assistance Coordinator for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and from others in the same position across the country.

Listening leads to understanding

The first principle Dr Banis offered was the importance of listening to victims. She encouraged Bishops to make it a regular part of their ministry to meet face to face with victims of clergy abuse and hear their stories. “It’s very different when you do it”, she said. “The power of that exchange can be remarkable.” Understanding gained from such listening is necessary in order to make policies and procedures.

“We learn from hearing their sacred stories and we honor them in those moments…. We need you to change the way things happen. But you need them to understand how to make those changes meaningful…. People change in the context of relationships”.

Earn back trust

Betrayal trauma is what the Church is now asked to face, Dr Banis continued. Those who have been abused were harmed by someone they should have been able trust. Earning back that trust is a very slow journey, that starts by believing the victims and engaging with them, she said. Ways to demonstrate trustworthiness are: apologizing for what the person has suffered, stating that they have the right to report the abuse to civil authorities, filing reports on behalf of the Church, offering professional support, removing the accused, announcing the allegation, and developing relationships with local law enforcement and social services. “It’s putting the victim first,” Dr Banis said.

Victims were silenced

Because they were young, because of their belief they would not be believed, of the communication that they would harm the Church, of the feedback that “he’s a good priest”, of  the injunction to “just get over it”, victims were silenced, Dr Banis explained. When victims assistance coordinators receive a complaint about a priest, their first reaction is, “Is this person the only victim or are there others?” The victim, on the other hand often thinks, “I must be the only one”. Making lists of perpetrators allows other victims of the same person to come forward, Dr Banis said.

Changing the climate

Dr Banis then described how the Church can communicate that those who have been abused by priests are welcome and ready to be heard. It starts with being “victim-centric”, she said. Think about them and pray for them – first; organizing apology meetings, healing and lament liturgies; creating “sacred spaces and places” where victims can feel recognized, acknowledged, safe and a part of the Church. Communication is essential. “Keep communicating about what you are learning, doing, and how things are changing”, Dr Banis encouraged the Bishops.

Prevention works

Dr Banis admitted that the prevention efforts put in place by the US Bishops is working. “The numbers tell us that”, she said. But it’s working, she added, because there is vigilance in place. That vigilance can never diminish, Dr Banis said firmly. Vigilance involves rigorous parish audits, and the removal of anyone who does not maintain the expected standards.

“If we don’t hold everyone, everyone, in the Church accountable to that, then it becomes meaningless.”

New pattern emerging

Her last recommendation was directed at using the structures in place for assisting clergy abuse involving minors for adults as well. Dr Banis says that the review board in Los Angeles ministers to both children and adults, and she encourages this practice. The reason that she gave is that they are witnessing “more and more patterns of grooming of adolescence that is then acted upon when that adolescent becomes an adult”.

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CATHOLIC WORLD

Killing of Christians: Buhari lied to Trump – CAN fumes

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Killing of Christians: Buhari lied to Trump - CAN fumes

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has reacted to President Muhammadu Buhari’s revelation of his conversation with United States President, Donald Trump, on the massacre of Christians in Nigeria, saying President Buhari was economical with the truth.

President Buhari had on Tuesday, revealed that at the heat of the bloody clashes between herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria, the United States President, Donald Trump, unequivocally accused him of killing Christians.

Buhari said these in his closing remarks at the two-day ministerial performance review retreat held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Tuesday.

At a point, the President digressed from his prepared speech and narrated his encounter with Trump on the bloody clashes.

He said he managed to explain to the American leader that the clashes were not about ethnicity or religion.

He said, “I believe I was about the only African among the less developed countries the President of United States invited.

“When I was in his office, only myself and himself, only God is my witness, he looked at me in the face, and asked, ‘Why are you killing Christians?’

“I wonder, if you were the person, how you will react. I hope what I was feeling inside did not betray my emotion, so I told him that the problem between the cattle rearers and farmers, I know is older than me not to talk of him. I think I am a couple of years older than him.

“With climate change and population growth and the culture of the cattle rearers, if you have 50 cows and they eat grass, any root, to your water point, then they will follow it. It doesn’t matter whose farm it is.

“The First Republic set of leadership was the most responsible leadership we ever had. I asked the Minister of Agriculture to get a gazette of the early 60s which delineated the cattle route where they used meager resources then to put earth dams, wind mills even sanitary department.

“So, any cattle rearers that allowed his cattle to go to somebody’s farm would be arrested, taken before the court. The farmer would be called to submit his bill and if he couldn’t pay, the cattle would be sold, but subsequent leaders, the VVIPs (very important persons) encroached on the cattle routes. They took over the cattle rearing areas.

“So, I tried and explained to him (Trump) that this has got nothing to do with ethnicity or religion. It is a cultural thing.”

However, CAN’s Vice President and Chairman of the association in Kaduna State, John Hayab, was not impressed with Buhari’s submission, saying “Buhari and his government will never stop from amusing us with their tales by moonlight because what is happening in Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina, Birnin Gwari, Southern Kaduna, Taraba, Plateau and others cannot be described as a cultural thing.

He told Punch correspondent in an interview: “President Buhari’s weak story about his conversation with President Donald Trump further confirms why his government does not care about the killings in our country by calling them cultural things.

“Just this (Tuesday) evening, I received a report from the Kaduna Baptist Conference President about the number of their members that have been killed by bandits in Kaduna State from January 2020 to date to be 105 and our President will call it a cultural thing? All we can say is may God save our Nigeria.”

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Nuncio tasks clergy, laity on good stewardship

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Nuncio tasks clergy, laity on good stewardship

The Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria, Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi, has urged the clergy, religious and lay faithful to be trustworthy, transparent, selfless and generous stewards in the discharge of their duties in the Church, following the way of Jesus.

Archbishop Filipazzi made the call during the opening ceremony of the maiden General Assembly of the Abuja Archdiocese, which was held on at Our Lady Queen of Nigeria Pro-Cathedral, Friday September 4.

The General Assembly, with the theme “Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja: Together in Evangelization,” saw Bishops, priests, religious men and women, and the laity gathered together to discuss means of strengthening the faith of God’s people amid the ongoing Covid-19 health crisis.

Addressing participants, Archbishop Filipazzi said that “an administrator is neither a master nor a slave who cannot decide anything, but one who is given a responsibility by the Master.” In this light, the faithful are called to be “true administrators of divine mystery” entrusted to them by Our Lord, according to their varying roles in the Church.

The Apostolic Nuncio also said “differences must not lead to division,” as everyone, though different, must strive for unity since there is no room for divisions in the body of Christ.

Archbishop Filipazzi, speaking on the upsurge in violence in northern Nigeria in a Vatican News interview on 29 August, had also called for shunning divisions along religious and ethnic lines.

Rather, he appealed for “general respect of the law and general intervention of the government” in the violent attacks which have claimed many lives and caused massive material damage.

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Assumpta CMO raises fund to roof “St Joseph’s Hall of Faith”

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Assumpta CMO raises fund to roof “St. Joseph's Hall of Faith”

The Catholic Men Organization, CMO, Maria Assumpta Cathedral Parish Owerri, joined their counterparts in the Archdiocese to celebrate Father’s Day on Sunday, August 30.

The celebration earlier scheduled for May 10 this year was differed because of Covid-19 pandemic.

The occasion began with a Pontifical Mass presided over by His Grace, Most Rev. Anthony Obinna, Archbishop of Owerri cum Parish Priest of the Cathedral Parish.

In his homily, Archbishop Obinna called on Christians to live a life of witnessing to Christ at all times. He said that the zeal to preach the word of God is like a fire that burns inside the heart of a Christian and will not abate until one bears witness to Christ. This, he said, must be done in the course of our daily lives, in our places of work, in our families, among our friends, through living life that is Christ-like.

He congratulated the Christian fathers on the occasion and appealed for support to enable them complete their building project in no distant time. His Grace also appreciated the performance of the CMO choir during the Mass.

The theme for the parish celebration is: “Catholic Men As Spiritual Heads of the Domestic Church: Implications in the Family.”

The parish CMO used the celebration to raise fund for the roofing of their building project named: “St. Joseph’s Hall of Faith.”

In his brief remark at the occasion, the Parish CMO President, Arc. Anthony Emeka Ozoude said, “We have been able to complete the block work,” adding that, “the task before us now is to put a roof on the building.”

He therefore made a passionate appeal for generous donations from members and well wishers, assuring donors that every kobo donated will be prudently applied for the purpose.

Arc. Ozoude recalled that early this year, the parish CMO executive identified a three-prong programme of focus, namely: Membership revalidation, Debt recovery and Fund raising for the roofing.

He advised members not to sit on the fence anymore as there is so much to gain spiritually, morally and even intellectually from participating in the CMO activities both at the parish, stations and prayer groups levels.

“The committed members who attend our programmes regularly have discovered this and have remained resolute in their participation,” he said.

Activities marking this year’s celebration included Retreat, visit to ailing members in their homes, thanksgiving Mass blessing of the mini altars for the 5 prayer groups of CMO etc.

Arc. Ozoude thanked in a special way, Archbishop Obinna, the Cathedral Administrator and priests working in the Cathedral for their support. He also commended the various stations and prayer groups for their cooperation.

The CMO president acknowledged the good work and sacrifice of the Planning Committee, headed by Dr. Uche Ukozor and thanked them for a job well done.

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