Catholic Commission for Social Justice at the Archdiocese of Port-of-Spain chair Leela Ramdeen says the allegations of abuse of children at homes and care centres must be confronted.
Speaking at ‘A Conversation about Faith and Gender-Based Violence’ at the Cipriani College of Labour in Valsayn yesterday, Ramdeen said such abuses were against the virtues and values of Jesus Christ.
“I think it’s time that faith communities like the Catholic Church take an honest look at ourselves and address the beam in our eyes and change our ways,” Ramdeen said.
Ramdeen said the church has control of 12 homes and nurseries and referenced the fact that both the St Dominic’s and St Jude’s homes were mentioned in the 1997 Robert Sabga Report and the 2021 Judith Jones Report.
“We have to address the issues…we shall do everything we can to bring healing and justice,” she said.
She said just like the shortest sentence in the Bible (Jesus wept), she wept when she read the reports.
Page 36 of the 1997 Sabga report said a male member of staff (who was once a resident there) at the St Dominic’s Home is alleged to have perpetrated multiple sexual acts with a number of children up to the latter part of 1995. It said he is reputed to have molested some 30 –40 boys before he was stopped.
The 2021 Judith Jones report said at St Jude’s, frequent sexual activity occurs among residents, including situations that residents described as “gang rape.” It said sexual interaction and grooming occur between residents and staff and security personnel.
The Catholic Church recently announced it was launching its own investigation into the claims made to determine if the allegations are true.
“The litmus test for me is what would Jesus do…those of us who say we are disciples of Christ must check ourselves and see if we are living witnesses of our faith, or if our moral conscience needs to be developed,” she said.
Ramdeen said when she was small, some priests used to encourage victims of gender-based violence to try and remain in their relationship and pray.
“Some even reminded victims of their matrimonial vows stated for better or for worse,” she added.
She said such advice tramples on the dignity of these victims and encouraged the clergy to speak out from the pulpit against domestic violence. She said the church needs to provide outreach programmes in their parishes to address this social ill.
“Victims need tips for protection, how to leave safely where they can go,” she said.
She said the church cannot sit on the sideline and prayer in action includes the victims and perpetrators.
Abbess Jermaine Jordan said the church has failed when it comes to dealing with gender-based violence. She said sometimes, spiritual leaders need to come out of the boundary and scriptural teachings and deal with situations as they relate to the present.
“Because sometimes among your membership, there may be situations but because of your spiritual beliefs, you try to comfort them both, especially in martial situations, you try to keep them together,” she said.
Jordan said this advice can cause women to stay in abusive relationships, which can lead to their deaths.
“I am maybe a revolutionist pastor, I say to them, run for your life,” she said.
She said there was a situation where a pastor told a domestic violence victim that God would work it out but it did not and she was killed. She said society is way out of hand and values have broken down, so the time for casing it is long gone.
The event was hosted by the non-governmental organisation The Indigenous Creative Arts Network.