Working for the Protection of the Vulnerable and Healing of Abuse Victims
Disciple Profile: Anthony Gonzalez
Disciple Profile: Anthony Gonzalez
Tell me about your ministry or your role within The Office for the Protection of Vulnerable Children and Adults and how long you have been engaged in it?
My role is to receive, review, and respond to reports of alleged sexual abuse and misconduct by diocesan personnel. I also work with various Chancery departments, in addition to parishes and schools, in support of Diocesan Safe Environment programs. My key responsibility is providing oversight on our diocese’s adherence to the United States Conference for Catholic Bishop’s Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, and ensuring our policies and procedures align with both civil laws and best practices for preventing abuse.
What about your ministry has impacted you the most spiritually?
I would have to say it is seeing the deep faith in those who work in this field but especially the faith of those who have been victimized by leaders of the Church such as clergy. To continue to have faith in Christ or to continue as a Catholic after such betrayal and pain at the hands of those representing our Lord and Savior reminds me that God’s presence with us is real. Although His ministers are as flawed as the rest of us, God is not the sum of their actions, and His love is truly never-ending.
What do you wish others knew about your ministry, its mission, the cases you handle, or the clients who come to your door?
Incidents of abuse are not always black and white. There are many levels of abuse and a spectrum of unwanted violations of one’s personal boundaries on par with more established or socially acknowledged abuse that can cause just as much harm. Sexual misconduct is not always in the traditional form of physical conduct. It can be emotional and spiritual misconduct, which increases intensity gradually and is rooted in a more self-serving, impure motivation. My role is to make sure that healthy boundaries are enforced. Locally and nationally, there are many regulations and laws that govern who can have access to specific populations such as children. These diocesan policies safeguard the Church’s ministries for the good of the people and the Church.
When have you been/or are you the most inspired and most challenged in your ministry?
Finding truth and justice with compassion and understanding is a delicate journey. Working on allegations themselves inspires me most in the work I do. Criminal matters must be handled by the proper civil authorities, such as law enforcement. Still, most instances of misconduct in the Church are boundary violations that are not criminal but are moral and ethical transgressions and unfathomably hurtful. In the face of this unfortunate reality, it is best to intervene in such matters before they become criminal offenses and someone suffers further emotional, physical, or spiritual injury.
Why is this ministry important to you personally? Why should it be important to all Catholics?
I see our ministry as a catalyst for change and an instrument of hope and healing. We as a Church have recognized the genuine need to change our course on how we respond to matters of abuse, support those bringing forth claims against Church personnel, and work towards realistic, effective ways to protect the vulnerable. That is at the heart of our work: to promote positive change within the diocese in a way that acknowledges our painful history of abuse.
We have the solemn duty, to protect, heal, and right the wrongs of the past. That is no small task but is vital to the Church’s mission and requires collaboration and hard work. Thankfully, the Church has done some heavy lifting over the years, bringing forth the Dallas Charter in 2002 and Vos Estis Lux Mundi more recently in 2019. But again, there will always be work to be done regarding these efforts. We must remain vigilant to protect and heal from abuse, which is why this work is important to me personally and as a Catholic.
Anthony Gonzalez is the Director Office for the Protection of Children & Vulnerable Adults for the Diocese of San José. He has worked in the youth protection field for almost 20 years, starting with working for the Missing, Abused and Exploited Children's Agency. He believes his Catholic faith continues to guide him, giving him the strength to walk this path with those he has helped. A current resident of Fremont, he credits his wife and family with being instrumental in supporting his work.