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Introducing the Human Dignity Strategy

The Human Dignity Strategy of Conference of Religious Orders in Hungary 2021-2025

Protection of minors has become a topic raising interest within the Catholic Church as well since the beginning of 2000s. Confronted to the relevance and importance of the issue, national churches started to become aware of their own responsibility and elaborate their views on the area. Despite human dignity and child protection getting more and more attention during the past few years within church communities and institutions, only a few of the religious orders present in Hungary have elaborated framework, policy and procedures for child protection. In the past ten years, the number of educational and social institutions operated by the church raises significantly, thus more and more children and vulnerable adult persons live, study and is educated in church-operated institutions.  Religious orders are also facing the internal need for trainings, transparent and properly regulated operation and procedures as well as professional support and cooperation, while progress is also encouraged on the level of church regulations (see Pope Francis, Motu Proprio, 8 May 2019) and local superiors are invited to act accordingly by order leaderships.

The Human Dignity Strategy created in 2020 by Office for Hungarian Order Superiors adopts an approach based on the teachings of the Catholic Church regarding this sensitive, topical and essential issue. It outlines current possibilities and need for action with correctness and responsibility, with respect to Hungarian Church and more specifically within religious communities. The objective of the strategy is to lay the foundations to activities preserving human dignity, and to formulate directives and standards and give assistance for activities preserving human dignity. 

We are creating a long-term strategy that contributes to prevention, shaping vision, education and intervention as well as going public and cooperation. This includes both soft elements like vision shaping and hard ones like protocols, regulations, supportive systems. Its scope extends to protecting minors and also vulnerable adults, provides support for the realisation within educational, social, pastoral and religious communities, conforming to all documents of the Holy See and state regulations and handling specifics of ecclesiastic and religious groups in a competent and sensitive way.

After an annual planning process, 20 professionals, including 8 members of the religious orders in 46 meetings, working a total of 1,500 working hours to create the Human Dignity Strategy.

The Human Dignity Strategy defines the primary target group for the activities as the “religious group”, i. e. members of the religious orders, employees and volunteers working in religious institutions, and also adults and children living and studying there as well as families impacted by these activities.
Thus, the validity of the strategy extends to the whole of the 96 religious orders represented by the Conferences of the Hungarian Religious Orders, consisting of 1265 members of the religious orders (731 women and 534 men). 71 public educational institutions (70 active members of the orders, 4571 staff members, 33,175 students) 51 social institutions (50 active members of the orders, 1265 staff members, 7576 clients, caregivers) 195 parish or religious institution persons (450 members of the orders, 1450 staff members, 500,000 closely related persons) 25 higher education institutions institution, 212 monasteries and houses (members of the orders + 500 staff). (Based on 2020 data.)

Stand up for and serve the cause of human dignity, coordinate action between 2020 and 2025 in the Hungarian religious area by initiating dialogue in society and church, providing specialised services, and creating a centre for methodology. 

Strategic goals set in the Human Dignity Strategical Plan: 

  1. Founding an effective organisation to represent the cause of human dignity. 
  2. Making use of Vatican expertise in Hungary to provide guidance for conversations and trainings related to child protection. 
  3. Formulating an integrated Christian image of the human.
  4. Creating an image and tools shaping vision and carrying our core messages. 
  5. Elaborating a collection of suitable exercises and a participation model to enable and reinforce participation rights of children and adults. 
  6. Offer target specific training packages. 
  7. Creating a central religious institutional standard for child protection. 
  8. Supporting religious orders and institutions in implementing regulations of the central religious institutional standard. 
  9. Forming a pool of professionals and a multi-level system of support and supply, available for all religious institutions dealing with children.

Human Dignity Project: Presentation of the achievements in 2020

Child Protection Service of the religious orders  – Creating the signaling interface

One of the directives declared in the motu proprio “Vos estis lux mundi” is that dioceses as well as religious communities should own a tool to enable reporting sexual abuse cases and that cases should be processed by them. This is why we created the platform “gyermekvedelem.szerzetesek.hu”, basically aiming to record reported child protection cases where religious orders are concerned and to provide assistance to orders with managing these cases.

Franciscan Province of Our Lady of Hungary – Creating regulation for child protection

We have been working on the child protection regulation of the Franciscan Province of Our Lady of Hungary since autumn 2020. The objective of this process is to review existing practices of the province and to elaborate a regulation with continuous follow-up by the leaders of the province, in accordance with Franciscan spirituality, supporting transparency and ensuring all activities of the province guarantee the safety of those involved. This regulation can also contribute to policies related to activities and institutions of the province.

Training in formation

We launched a series of five training sessions for Franciscan novices dedicated to sharing thoughts on child protection and human dignity in personal meetings and trainings. Sessions will be held starting from spring 2021 as personal presence is deemed necessary.

Bartimaeus Training “Let me see” – in collaboration with Marist brothers

The Bartimaeus training was organized and delivered as a result of a broad and successful collaboration with the Marist brothers. Gospel story of blind Bartimaeus, who wanted to see, inspired the title and objective of the training: we intend to give visibility to child protection and human dignity among religious-internal communities and sustainers. We would like to shed light on areas previously covered by shadow.

We had a view on the international level, thanks to experts of the Marist brothers and the experience they had abroad. Participants from Hungarian institutions touched areas where tasks are set, and action is possible. The four-session training was held in the form of webinars, avoiding personal contact, due to restrictions related to the pandemic.

Institutional Reporting Tool of School Sisters of Notre Dame – child protection protocol in schools

As part of the collaboration with School Sisters of Notre Dame, we are designing a child protection reporting system for educational institutions. We determine the objectives together with the provincial superior and the provincial chapter, continuously discussing expectations of the order. We then lay the foundations of the system, conforming to child protection professional standards, which we present to the group of leaders, including public education directors, and which we set up based on leaders’ opinion and needs.

Sisters of the Good Shepherd: counselling on institutional operation

Sisters of the Good Shepherd work in a special area of the child protection system: this is where we provided professional counselling in the past few months. We can build on their experience and deep spirituality in our activities with regards to child protection. Thus, collaborating with the Good Shepherd Mother and Child Home was fruitful on both sides.  

Forming institutional protection group for Legio Christi

We started collaborating in spring 2021, working on the child protection system of the Holy Pope John Paul II Educational Centre, together with the employees. We are discussing existing activities and are elaborating the operational framework and procedure of the protection group of the school.

2021 program and activities of the Human Dignity project 

The executive board of the Conferences of Religious Orders approved the strategy for Human Dignity, which enabled all human dignity related activities in collaboration with orders to be conducted in this spirit until 2025. Benedek Dobszay OFM was charged with following up on the delivery of the project as an executive delegate, appointed by the board. The project is being launched under the auspices of the Office of the Religious Orders in Hungary in 2021, as per the board’s decision. 
Project delivery is being started in the form of permanent working groups. Four working groups are formed in spring 2021 and start working as per strategic objectives:

  •  creating training content
  •  formulating institutional standards
  • formulating key messages
  •  creating integrated image of the human

Services launched are operated continuously and we are open to further collaborations as well.