Therapist: Everyone needs to help make Church ‘safest place on earth’

Therapist: Everyone needs to help make Church ‘safest place on earth’
Gabriel Dy-Liacco, a psychotherapist and member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, at a panel “Safeguarding Children and Vulnerable Adults,” with Barbara Thorp, former head of the Office for Pastoral Support and Child Protection for the Boston Archdiocese; Marie Collins, former member of the Pontifical Commission for Protection of Minors; Baroness Sheila Hollins, psychiatrist and former member of the Vatican’s safeguarding advisory body, at the recent World Meeting of Families in Dublin, Ireland. CNS/JOHN MCELROY

By Fr. Mickey Cardenas

Sept. 8, 2018


With the recent call of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to address the crisis of clerical sexual abuse brought to light by recent Church scandals, a member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors highlighted the vital role of both the Church hierarchy and the lay faithful to effectively implement the existing guidelines for the protection of minors and vulnerable adults.

“For our Church to be the safest place on earth, this means the pro-active participation of the laity, particularly parents, in taking responsibility for this mission, which is just as much a temporal affair as it is a spiritual one,” Dr. Gabriel Dy-Liacco of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors told CBCP News.

In addition to accountability at all levels, he emphasized that a key component of building a culture of relational safety is the pro-active participation of all persons concerned.

He acknowledged that, while necessary improvements in guidelines have been made to protect minors in the Church, words are not enough.

“As a psychotherapist who has been treating clergy perpetrators of sexual abuse and adults who were sexually abused as children, I can tell you the truth that outside of the United States, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and maybe now the United Kingdom, the implementation of safe environment systems in our Church leaves much to be desired, not for a lack of good intention, but for a lack of concrete action,” Dy-Liacco explained.

Everyone accountable

The Filipino psychotherapist pointed out that a key component of abuse prevention is accountability at all levels but he lamented the general trend in many countries that many abusers continue to remain free of any accountability whatsoever.

“The way these crimes have been dealt with – the ‘old system’ – was by systematic denial, cover-up, and silence. Such horribly misguided actions done for the egregious reasons – to ‘protect the reputation of the Church’ and ‘protect the vocation of the priest’ – result in the neglect of the welfare of victims and their families and has enabled the crimes to continue,” lamented the psychotherapist.

Pro-active participation

Dy-Liacco said this is where lay people can get involved and be more proactive about the issue.

“Proactive participation of the laity in this matter means actively helping our local Church leadership in instituting comprehensive abuse prevention efforts, as well as in demanding transparent accountability and responsibility from priests and, yes, from their leaders, too,” Dy-Liacco affirmed.

Bring Christ into every home

Dy-Liacco, a husband and father of five children, called on Catholic parents like himself to “be true to our vocation to bring Christ into the middle of the world, into every home.”

“We must be proactive in this ministry. It is my hope that parents, especially those in the Family and Life ministries and covenanted communities, will respond generously to our Lord who calls us to this mission,” he said.