Board Summary of Investigation into Allegations Made by Teresa Mateus — Center for Action and Contemplation
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Board Summary of Investigation into Allegations Made by Teresa Mateus

December 13th, 2021

Earlier this year, Teresa Mateus, a well-known colleague, posted an open letter critical of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC). The open letter resurfaced allegations of inappropriate behavior against an individual who, while not employed by CAC, had been a collaborator and participated in CAC-sponsored events. Though this conduct was addressed at the time by CAC management and CAC’s relationship with the accused was ended, Ms. Mateus’ post raised serious concerns about CAC’s handling of the situation.

The CAC’s board of directors takes issues raised in the post seriously. Upon learning of the resurfaced allegations, we commissioned an independent, outside party’s full, unbiased review of CAC’s and the accused’s actions. This review by an independent consultant is now complete, and we want to share the high-level findings with our community.

CAC Board Summary of Independent Review Findings

This review investigated the allegations made by Teresa Mateus in her An Open Letter Regarding Spiritual Violence:  To Silence-Keepers & Institutional Power-Bearers, dated February 1, 2021. The accused allegedly engaged in inappropriate conduct, which consisted of alleged verbal comments, back rubs and electronic communications that caused females to feel uncomfortable and which could be construed as sexual harassment.

As a part of Ms. Mateus’ open letter, she made several requests of the CAC. These were also each evaluated by the independent consultant who, in turn, delivered to the CAC specific recommendations related to each. They are as follows:

1) “Publicly disclose the perpetrator you fired, after said person violated women on your own staff, that you kept secret.”

The independent consultant found that, based on the information provided, at no time was the accused employed by CAC. Thus, he was not terminated. However, the CAC did inform the accused that he would be required to withdraw from the Living School program where he was a student at the time, that he would not be allowed to attend future CAC programs, and that CAC would not be sponsoring or involved in any initiatives he might lead. With regard to the demand that the “perpetrator” be publicly disclosed, the CAC was advised that this would likely be considered a defamatory action, which is defined as a wrongful injury to a person’s reputation. See Rule 13-1001 NMRA. Thus, the CAC is unable to honor this request.

2) “Eradicate the NDAs (or at least this portion of their non-disclosure) holding the internal victims within CAC from being able to disclose their personal experience of this perpetrator so that they can address their own traumas as they need.”

Based on all information gathered by the independent consultant, there was no NDA entered into by any individual related to the conduct of the accused.

3) “Transfer oversight of sexual, racial or other areas of marginalization harm investigation from the internal process to an external committee of advisors.”

While CAC has policies and procedures in place for employees and students, the independent consultant did find as a deficiency that CAC does not have a process in place for individuals like Ms. Mateus who was neither a student nor employee at the time she wrote her open letter, and recommended that CAC work to evaluate the best way to shore up this gap so that any individuals interacting with or involved in CAC programs, whether or not an employee, will have a process to make a formal complaint if necessary.

4) “Agreement to and approval for the removal of Richard Rohr’s foreword — actually written by [the accused] — from my book Sacred Wounds: A Path to Healing from Spiritual Trauma.”

At no time has CAC or Richard Rohr had a contractual relationship with the publisher of Ms. Mateus’ book. Neither does CAC or Richard Rohr have any input or control over decisions made about Ms. Mateus’ book, including whether Ms. Mateus or her publisher continue to use the foreword to her book. This is a decision that rests solely with Ms. Mateus and her publisher.

Conclusion

Based on this investigation, it was recommended that CAC affirm the responsibility of all members of the leadership team to take seriously all complaints, whether made informally or not, and address them quickly and thoroughly. The CAC’s Employee Handbook and its Grievance Procedures appear to have appropriate mechanisms for complaints for staff. In addition, CAC does have a Living School Harassment/Complaint Reporting Form available for use by students. However, because Ms. Mateus was not an employee at the time of her open letter, and as discussed above, it is recommended CAC evaluate the best way to create a process for participants or members of the CAC community to submit complaints or grievances that can be appropriately addressed. Further, the CAC should closely monitor the events it sponsors or that CAC recommends that its students and employees attend to avoid the appearance of endorsing behaviors that do not align themselves with the vision and values of CAC.

The review found evidence that was in line with our initial findings, that the accused individual engaged in inappropriate conduct — violating our core principles and contrary to our mission. While this individual was not an employee, CAC terminated the organization’s relationship with him and prohibited him from participating in CAC programs.

We all have a responsibility to listen and learn from those who have experienced harm. This situation demanded a rigorous self-examination and a clear commitment to transparency and mutual accountability. We will continue to review and update our policies and procedures as needed to help ensure our spaces are free of harassment and discrimination, including how best to specifically address the recommendation to create a process for participants or members of the CAC’s community to submit complaints or grievances that can be appropriately addressed.

Our mission at CAC, grounded in the values of our contemplative tradition, is to introduce Christian contemplative wisdom and practices that support transformation and inspire loving action. That sets a high bar, and CAC is committed to being a source of healing and taking compassionate action to better the world. CAC takes allegations of harassment and discrimination seriously and is committed to providing a fair and safe space for people to collaborate, learn and work. CAC’s board of directors takes that responsibility very seriously, and this review was done to reveal any corrective measures that should be taken in response to Ms. Matteus’ open letter, and to do what we can to insure this does not happen again.


Board of Directors
Center for Action and Contemplation

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