Teresa Kettelkamp, the newly appointed Adjunct Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, meets with Pope Francis (archive photo) Teresa Kettelkamp, the newly appointed Adjunct Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, meets with Pope Francis (archive photo) 

Kettelkamp: Pope has strengthened safeguarding Commission

Teresa Kettelkamp, whom Pope Francis has named as the new Adjunct Secretary for the Pontificial Commission for the Protection of Minors, shares her hopes for the Commission's expanded mandate and reflects on the Church's efforts to safeguard minors and vulnerable adults.

By Christopher Wells

Pope Francis’ decision to insert the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors within the Roman Curia has strengthened the Commission’s voice, says Teresa Kettelkamp, whom Pope Francis appointed as the new Adjunt Secretary of the Commission on Friday.

“I think our position in the Curia gives us a stronger voice in the Curia, especially our position within the DDF,” she told Vatican News, in an interview following her appointment. “It has reinforced our permanency and reinforced the importance that the Holy Father has placed on protecting children and reaching out to survivors.”

Below you can find the full text of the interview with Ms. Teresa Morris Kettelkamp, Adjunct Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Interview with Teresa Kettelkamp

Q: The Pope just now, just today, has appointed you as Adjunct Secretary and Bishop Ali Herrera as Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. Up until the present point, there was a single secretary. Now we have two people in the positions of secretary and adjunct. Can you tell us why there are now two roles where there was only one in the past?

Teresa Morris Kettelkamp: I can only guess. I have not had any personal conversations with the Holy Father, though we do meet with him when we're in Rome. But the role of the Pontifical Commission has greatly expanded from its inception.

You know, we were created back about ten years ago, and the mandate was not… I can't say it was narrow because it was a huge responsibility, but it was really to advise the Holy Father on the clergy abuse crisis, and work locally and identify issues that we could bring to him for his kind of consideration to make sure that this abuse crisis – and I don't like to use the word abuse crisis – but this horrible situation never happens again.

It just doesn't happen again. There are safeguards in place and mechanisms and methodologies and policies and procedures in place that really reduce risk of any type of abuse in the Catholic Church. And that was our mandate. And that still is our mandate.

But as we started working along the path of our mandate, we saw an evolution in being able to do that. Staff has increased. We're working on the Memorare capacity building [initiative], and that's an outreach to survivors.

And I don't know if you know this, but one of my first… when I was on the commission the first time, I headed a working group called Working with Survivors. And the whole purpose of that working group was to give survivors a voice in the ministry of the Church and include them in how we outreach to survivors. So that's dear to my heart, and this capacity building locally to reach out to survivors is a huge initiative.

We're doing more and more leadership training, and of course, the annual report is a huge undertaking. And it's an annual report; it's not just one report. So we're working on finalizing the first annual report, which includes much information from the ad limina visits, which is another inclusive process that we've taken on to participate in those and meet with the bishops when they're in Rome and talk about their safeguarding practices and outreach assistance to survivors.

And then we're also working on structures for all the dioceses globally via guidelines on how to establish safe environment programs, who to include, how to reach out to survivors, and how to develop methods, processes, and codes of conduct locally that will help the local Church leadership reduce risk and help survivors heal, [or] at least give them a voice to see what they need to heal, because everyone's different.

You know that when you deal with survivors, what would work for me as a possible survivor might not help you at all. But they do need, and we do need, to listen to survivors and see what their needs are and how we can help. And hopefully, we turn many of them to the Church for the graces the Church offers to the sacraments.

Q: I'd like to talk a little bit about the voices of survivors. A lot of times, it seems like the Church, maybe the Commission also, focuses on prevention, which is obviously very, very important. But I know that a lot of survivors are going to be asking things of the Church.  They need a response from the Church. What do you see victims expecting in terms of a response when abuse has happened? How can the Church respond in terms of accountability and transparency? What do victims expect, and how can the Commission help the Church respond to those expectations?

That's a huge, huge issue. We had a program years ago, the 64 million dollar question, these days it would be a cheap question, but this could be a billion dollar question. The survivors need to be heard and acknowledged and they need to be seen.

And I think, talking to those in the past, is they totally feel they're ignored; they're not important, their issues don't count, the Church is more important about scandal, the Church is more important about saving money, the Church is more important about saving money, the Church is more important about other things than them.

I will say, and I hope this isn't as disjointed as it may sound, the Church, when we say the Church, who are we talking about? Are we talking about the Holy Father himself? Are we talking about the 20 or so members of the Pontifical Commission? I think when we talk about the Church, we're talking about the local Church at the local level, almost at the parish level. But we work through the diocese.

The guidelines are a terrific tool to help establish boundaries, policies, on how to reach out to survivors, how to reduce risk so we don't have survivors today that we are working with survivors mostly from the past. The Church is a safer place.

Going back to your question, the survivors, I believe, want to be heard. They want to be heard. They want to be acknowledged. They want their voices to be integrated into the ministries of the Church. Do we have ministries at the local level that just focus on the trauma of survivors?

Not that I need to share anything from my past—and I'm not a survivor—but I do come from a family of alcoholics. And I know that just going to Al-Anon and being heard by other people was very healing for me. Each survivor is different. One survivor would like to just come in, tell their story. Maybe they want to meet with the offender.

Or they just want to be heard to make sure that the offender does not offend anymore. Another survivor may want something different. Another survivor may want even a third something different.

And you can't forget the trauma impact on the families. I learned that when I worked with survivor advisory panels with the commission before this one. A big issue came up regarding how much trauma impacts the family when they realize one of their family members has been abused.

There's a lot of guilt. There's a lot of, “What could I do to have prevented that? How could I not know how many other people have been abused? Could I?” And on and on.

So we have to include the family members in their being heard as well. And the Church, the Church, I would say, it's the Church at the local level. It's the bishop, the ordinary, who has the ultimate responsibility for the implementation of guidelines. 

And they include not only guidelines for safe environment and creating that, but it's for the outreach of survivors, it's for openness and transparency, it's for the formation of priests, it's for the ongoing formation of priests.

I mean, it's a whole lot of issues. It's a complexity of issues that all work together for the common good and it's hard to pull out one without impacting the other.

Q: I want to ask another question about the current state of the Commission. In the past, the Commission was established as something of a semi-autonomous body outside the Curia. The Pope has now made it a stable part of the Church's central governance. Now with this new appointment, the Commission is led by a cardinal and a bishop. You also have an important role as adjunct secretary. How can the Commission ensure independence of its work and guarantee the voices of victims, survivors, ensure that they're heard, and also have a concrete impact on the work of the commission?

Well, I think our position in the Curia gives us a stronger voice in the Curia, especially our position within the DDF. I think our voice is strong. It's like we're part of the family. The Dicastery visits I have been on, I think have been very good.

I think before they saw—and I say ‘they’, the Curia members—saw the Commission as something outside, kind of looking in as a little side issue. But with the Holy Father placing it within the Curia, within DDF, his message is very strong: One, we're here to stay.

Two, he just placed the Bishop in charge of the Commission and added an adjunct secretary. Three, we're within DDF, which is a very powerful, strong, influential dicastery. So I think it's strengthened our position.

It has reinforced our permanency and reinforced the importance that the Holy Father has placed on protecting children and reaching out to survivors. Now, whether or not the survivors will see that from the outside, I don't think a normal person realizes the structure of the Vatican and the Curia.

But the members of the Curia definitely do, and church leadership globally certainly does. So that's with whom we are focusing our attention on, is working at the local level to reach out to survivors and victims. So hopefully that strengthens our voice and makes us more effective.

Q: One of the things that Cardinal O’Malley emphasized in his statement today upon your appointment and the appointment of Bishop Ali Herrera is the sense of continuity. You've both been a part of the Commission for some time, you know its inner workings; you've spoken a great deal with survivors of clerical sexual abuse, and you've seen the work of the Commission over the years. We're now approaching the 10th anniversary of the Commission's establishment. Can you give us your thoughts about these past 10 years and your hopes moving forward?

Well, my initial thoughts are that it takes a while to get your stride. And I think the first commission was perfect for the first commission. I think we evolved and were stronger with the second commission.

And I was blessed to have worked with the first commission, then on the second Commission, and now on the third. [I have] great respect for the first commission. They were given a task of none before. And they worked out a lot of bugs, identified a lot of key issues, and I think laid a very, very good foundation to move forward. And then the second commission took that and moved the ball even further.

I don't know if you've met the members of the current Commission, but we met recently with the Dicastery for Bishops. And as we went around the table and identified ourselves, I sat there kind of in awe of the blending of the skills and the global representation and the cultural diversity of this commission.

Now, I'm not familiar with other commissions and committees and et cetera, but I know that this Commission represents a huge part of the world. There are still areas that we'd like to be, have, stronger representation, but [there are] huge, huge skill sets sitting around that table.

And I think we have reached a point administratively with the Commission members, with our placement in the Curia, that we really are a strong, strong body to take on this issue—the issues of safeguarding and victim outreach—in a very, very effective way. 

Not that it wasn't in the past. But I think there were some growing pains and some feeling our way: different opinions on different ways which you go, different working groups. I think the initial commission had [something] like 17 committees, and then kind of whittled that down to much less.

So I think we've hit our stride. I just am excited to work with the bishop and the members. I know the members. I like every single member. I respect every single member.

And I'm a little overwhelmed. I'll be on the scene, you know, taking on this role. I still need to sit down with the bishop and kind of work through some administrative, you know, dealings, who does what, when, and where.

I'm in the US, but I'm not opposed, of course, to coming to Rome, which I love. So, we'll have to work through a number of issues, but we're on the same sheet of music… on everything I've brought to his attention for discussion, he's with me on, and vice versa.

So we've been on the commission now for a couple of years, so we're good to go, I think.

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15 March 2024, 17:09