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PARAPPULLY Jose, New Delhi says,
Should the Salesian Rector be the Spiritual Director of Salesians in Formation? Holding Up to the Light- 17
By Jose Parappully
360° VIEW
New Delhi, Jul. 28. A discussion on the issue of the Salesian Rector being also the Spiritual Director.

The Salesian Constitutions and the Formation of the Salesians of Don Bosco stipulate that the Rector be the preferential choice as spiritual director especially for Salesians in formation.

Regulations 78: Formation communities must have a rector and a team of formation personnel who are specially trained, above all as regards spiritual direction which is ordinarily given by the rector himself (emphasis mine).

FSDB. No. 262. ... According to Salesian tradition, the Rector of the formation community, ... is the spiritual director proposed to the confreres , without taking away their ability to choose another spiritual director.

FSDB. No. 292. The Rector of the Community is always the spiritual director proposed to, but not imposed on, the individual confreres. The confreres in formation can approach, in addition to the Rector....

FSDB No. 345. ... to perform this task... (which includes spiritual direction), the Provincial expressly designates the Rector and the team....

It is true that in the mind of the Congregation, based on tradition, the Rector is the preferred spiritual director.

However, such a position is no longer helpful, rather is destructive, in the context of changed realities in regard to the candidates now entering religious (Salesian) life, as described in Context 2 below.

As the Holy Father Pope Francis recently observed it is important to change structures when they are no longer helpful, even if they have part of long tradition.

Context 1: Sexual Abuse Experience of many candidates to Religious/Salesian life

Research data indicate that a large number of boys and girls are victims of sexual abuse.
Basing herself on the results of various research studies, Pinki Virani (2000) concluded that the prevalence rate of child sexual abuse in India is close to 50 % for girls and 30 % for boys under the age of 16.

More recent studies show greater prevalence of abuse both among girls and boys in India than those reported by Virani. Contrary to popular notions as well as reports in previous studies the prevalence rate of sexual abuse among boys is reported to be higher than that among girls. The Study of Child Abuse India 2007 prepared by the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare of the Government of India (2007) reported the following:
Out of the total [12447] child respondents, 53.22% reported having faced one or more forms of sexual abuse that included severe and other forms. Among them 52.94% were boys and 47.06% girls.....

The Catholic Church in India is not immune to this phenomenon. Many members of the clergy and religious have had sexual abuse experiences. There is both research (Parappully, 2003) and anecdotal evidence that confirm this view.

There is also anecdotal evidence that a large number of candidates now entering religious life have been victims of sexual abuse. At the annual Conference of Catholic Psychologists in India, a number of men and women involved in formation have reported that a large number of their candidates have had sexual abuse experience.

Context 2: Secrecy around sexual abuse (resistance to disclosure).

Research, as well as clinical experience, shows that there is a great deal of secrecy around sexual abuse experience.

A research on the sexual abuse experience of North American nuns (Chibnall,Wolf, & Duckro, 1998) showed that 23.6 percent of those who were abused had never discussed the abuse with another person. These women had kept their experience of sexual abuse secret for an average of 54.3 years! For those who had discussed the abuse, an average of 24.7 years had elapsed between the onset of the abuse and their first disclosure.

Context 3: Difficulty around disclosure and working through effects of sexual abuse when rectors/novice masters are also the spiritual directors.

Secrecy is mostly broken in the context of confidential encounters such as in counselling and spiritual direction. However, if the person offering counselling and spiritual direction is also involved in decision making regarding the future of the candidate, such as the Rector or the Novice Master, the victim would be very reluctant to disclose the abuse experience for fear that his continuation would be jeopardised.

It would also be very difficult for the Rector or the Novice Master to offer the kind of confidentiality necessary for disclosure.

This dual role that a Rector/Novice Master plays�decision-maker/ spiritual director�can complicate the helping process. It cannot lead to a successful healing because in this situation the Rector/Novice Master has too much power and authority over the survivor, which makes it difficult for the survivor to develop the necessary trust and confidence, regardless of how reassuring the authority figure is.

Recently at a Workshop that I (Jose Parappully) did on ``Psychosexual Integration and Celibate Maturity`` a woman formator reported that 60-70 percent of her novices have had sexual abuse. When I asked her how she knows, she said the candidates themselves had disclosed that to her.

At that, a former Salesian Novice Master who was present said that was not his experience. He felt that they did not have such experience because almost none of his novices had disclosed to him that he had been sexually abused!

Also, the congregation`s expectation that the Rector or the Novice Master keeps aside information gained in the internal forum while making decisions, is problematic. The Rector or the Novice Master can be unconsciously influenced by the information.

Hence it quite likely that many candidates who have had sexual abuse experience do not get the help they require. This has implications for the affective maturity expected of a Salesian as indicated in context 5 below.

Context 4: Impact on the affective maturity of the future Salesian when effects of sexual abuse are not worked through.

If a candidate has not healed sufficiently from his sexual abuse experience, he cannot really fulfil the requirements for Salesian life and ministry as envisaged in Nos 59, 60, 61, and 62 of CNSVD - Admissions.

It is hard for the candidate to work through the effects of his sexual abuse experience if the spiritual director is Rector or Novice Master, for reasons pointed out earlier.

In the study on Causes and Contexts of sexual abuse of minors by American Catholic priests, one of the common factors found among priests who went on to abuse minors is the fact they themselves had been abused by an adult in childhood and had not worked through its effects (Terry, et al., 2010)

Context 5
Rectors these days are not generally trained to be spiritual directors.

Hence my proposal:

Ideally the Rector or Novice Master should not be the spiritual director of confreres and candidates in formation.

Stipulations in the Constitutions and Regulations and FSDB  related to spiritual direction should be changed accordingly.

[Check out also this Document on ``Criteria And Norms For Salesian Personal Accompaniment_Text for Consultation`` from the Generalate -  Editor]
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Antony EARATHARA India Haldia
August 02, 2013

Readers of this SPEAK UP are encouraged to check out the following document submitted by Fr. Maria Arokiam Kanaga, while the discussion on Spiritual Direction is held.

Antony EARATHARA India Haldia
August 02, 2013

Readers of this SPEAK UP are encouraged to check out the following document submitted by Fr. Maria Arokiam Kanaga, while the discussion on Spiritual Direction is held.

Paul CHERUTHOTTUPURAM India Bhubaneswar
July 30, 2013

I fully endorse the proposal that "Ideally the Rector or Novice Master should not be the spiritual director of confreres and candidates in formation." hence, the stipulations in the Constitutions and Regulations and FSDB related to spiritual direction should be changed or scrapped accordingly.

PARAPPULLY Jose India Bageshwar
July 29, 2013

I am hoping that this my post on Speak UP will initiate a discussion on the issue. I think a discussion is needed on this issue. It is good to know the views of the Readers, especially Salesian Rectors and Salesians in formation

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