Vatican approves strengthening safeguarding studies, research in Rome

Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, one of the Vatican’s top experts in the field of clergy sexual abuse, is pictured in a file photo greeting Andrew Collins, David Ridsdale and Peter Blenkiron at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. The three men said they were child sex abuse victims in Australia. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

ROME (CNS) — The Centre for Child Protection at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University has been transformed into a Vatican-approved academic institute with its own faculty and ability to award advanced academic degrees.

Starting Sept. 1, 2021, the university’s center will become the Institute of Anthropology, offering interdisciplinary studies on human dignity and care and expanding its scope in research, the university said in a press release April 27.

The Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education approved the change April 15, allowing the center to broaden its work, develop its own academic faculty and award a licentiate in safeguarding and a doctorate in anthropology, in addition to the current diploma in safeguarding.

The university’s rector, Jesuit Father Nuno da Silva Gonçalves, said, “With this decision, our university reiterates and intensifies its commitment to the work of protecting minors and vulnerable people and supporting safe environments which promote respect for human dignity.”

The new institute will also “deepen the interdisciplinary dimension of education and research, recognized by all as fundamental to addressing issues surrounding abuse and its prevention,” he noted.

The university said in its press release that growing demand for the center’s online and onsite learning programs “and requests for its involvement in local and international academic and formative events attest to the fact that the CCP has become a leading authority in its area of expertise. This recognition requires a different institutional and academic approach that exceeds the capacity of a center.”

As an academic institute, it will be able to expand its “engagement in scientific dialogue and research” and better promote the care and protection of every person, it said.

The institute “hopes to respond to the cry for justice and healing, to develop empowerment strategies to help people wounded by abuse to effectively and constructively cope with it, and to promote the creation of healthy and safe environments for integral human growth and well-being,” it said.

The Centre for Child Protection was established in 2012 as part of the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Institute of Psychology.

With a focus on care for victim-survivors of child abuse, the center’s “initial purpose was to educate and provide resources for research in the area of the prevention of child sexual abuse”; later it added a focus on the abuse of vulnerable persons, all under the broader concept of protecting human dignity, it said.