By Heather Walker
ROME — In recent years, The Lay Centre has been home to several scholars who have come to Rome to study at the Centre for Child Protection (CCP) at the Pontifical Gregorian University. This year, Ángela López from the Dominican Republic and Miguel Matute from Spain left work and family behind to study at the Centre for Child Protection.
Psychologist, wife and mother, López is one of 12 siblings. Her parents nurtured in her the love of God, as well as a love of study, work and service to others. López discovered her vocation of service at her high school, run by the Congregation of the Daughters of Jesus. She went on to study education and psychology and earned a master’s degree in educational psychology at New York University.
She worked as an intern with the Archdiocese of New York in a program for abused children, where she felt strongly “the pain and suffering of those children.” Today, López is a full-time professor at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo. She also collaborates with various religious congregations in their formation programs for seminarians and novices.
She was motivated to study in Rome by the high number of cases of sexual abuse of minors in the Dominican Republic.
“When I return home, I will be able to give training to priests and the laity of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo, as well as the 11 dioceses of the Dominican Republic,” she said.
Coming to Rome during the pandemic required her to step out of her comfort zone, which was both a challenge and a blessing, she said.
However, her two-week quarantine on arrival became a “desert” experience, offering her a time for “recollection that helped me to review some aspects of my life and meet the God who inhabits me and loves me so much,” she said.
López has found the intercultural reality of The Lay Centre and the Gregorian truly enriching.
“There is a great diversity of experiences and we have all welcomed each other very fraternally in an environment of study, reflection and commitment,” she added.
As the program winds to its end, López is grateful for the theoretical and practical tools she has learned, calling them a “true blessing.”
Miguel Matute is a husband, father and lawyer, who specializes in criminal law, prison law and family law. He has worked for many years with people with addictions and mental health issues. Matute also collaborates with the Foundation Vidal I Barraquer in Barcelona, established after the Second Vatican Council to create a “dialogue” between psychology and spirituality.
Some years ago, when the issue of the abuse of minors and vulnerable people came to light, above all within the Church, Matute was deeply impacted by this reality, the profound suffering of the victims and the fact that everything had remained hidden for so long. In his attempt to find more information and training in this area, he discovered the Centre for Child Protection in Rome and has since been in touch with Sister Rosaura González Casas, currently the coordinator of the CCP’s diploma in safeguarding Spanish-language course.
Matute said it is hard to explain why he started these studies and he is unsure how he will apply his knowledge once he returns to Spain. He speculated that it might take the form of a collaboration with the Archdiocese of Barcelona or with the Foundation Vidal I Barraquer.
“I simply believe this is what I have to do and this is where I should be,” he said. “I believe that we cannot turn our backs on this reality if we seek a sincere commitment to God and humanity. My life has always taken me to the peripheries.”
Matute said the Church has covered up the suffering of the victims of sexual abuse for too long and, by doing so, has allowed it to continue.
“In all this suffering, the Spirit guides us towards a new way of relating to each other and, also, to him,” he said, referring to the need to raise awareness about the abuse of minors and vulnerable people in the Church. “This is one of the main challenges of our time: to have other types of power structures, relationships outside and within the Church, in which respect for dignity and life reigns, prioritizing the smallest, the most vulnerable.”
“We must live this time as an opportunity to build a better Church and a better world, in which it is not possible for this tragedy to occur again,” he continued. “Only from here can we worship God and be his disciples. We can never forget Matthew 25:45: 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.'"
The pandemic presented a number of challenges for him during his five-month stay in Rome. However, the theoretical and practical knowledge he acquired, as well as his deeper understanding of the problem, have made up for the challenges.
“Let me say,” he added, “I am happy to be here doing this course, despite all the sacrifices of being a long way from my family and home.”
The Centre for Child Protection (CCP) was established by the Institute of Psychology of the Pontifical Gregorian University in January 2012. It is committed to the work of protecting minors and vulnerable people from sexual abuse. In a move to further develop its commitment and broaden its reach, the CCP is to be transformed into "The Institute of Anthropology. Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care” (IADC) as of September 1, 2021. For more information about the programs offered by CCP click this LINK
Photo courtesy Ángela López and Miguel Matute