The Vatican commission on sex abuse takes shape

The Vatican commission on sex abuse takes shape

Marie Collins, an abuse survivor, named to Vatican panel

Pope Francis today named eight members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, including an Irish victim of clerical sexual abuse.

This core group of the commission, which includes four women, has been asked to further define the scope of the panel's responsibilities and recommend additional members.

The Vatican said the commission would promote “a multi-pronged approach to promoting youth protection, including: education regarding the exploitation of children; discipline of offenders; civil and canonical duties and responsibilities; and the development of best practices as they have emerged in society at large.”

The commission includes Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston and Catholic experts from seven other countries. Most are from Europe, but the Vatican said additional members would be found from other continents. Among the eight are specialists in human rights, church and civil law, moral theology and psychology.

The Irish commission member, Marie Collins, is a well-known sex abuse survivor who has actively campaigned for investigation of sex abuse by priests. She was recently critical of a statement by the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland, which questioned whether some priests who had made “mistakes” early in life should continue to be excluded from ministry.

Here is the list of the members announced by the Vatican, and a statement by Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi:

The Holy Father Francis has instituted the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which was announced on Dec. 5, 2013, and called to be a part of it:

Dr. Catherine Bonnet (France)

Mrs. Marie Collins (Ireland)

Prof. the Baroness Sheila Hollins (United Kingdom)

Card. Sean Patrick O’Malley, OFM Cap (U.S.)

Prof. Claudio Papale (Italy)

Her Excellency Hanna Suchocka (Poland)

Rev. Humberto Miguel Yañez, SJ (Argentina)

Rev. Hans Zollner, SJ (Germany)

Their principal role will be to prepare the Statutes of the Commission, which will define its tasks and competencies. Other members will be added to the Commission in the future, chosen from various geographical areas of the world.

Brief biographies of the members can be found here.

Comment by Father Lombardi:

As Blessed John Paul II declared, "People need to know that there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young…. So much pain, so much sorrow must lead to a holier priesthood, a holier episcopate, and a holier Church" (Address of John Paul II to the Cardinals of the United States, 23 April 2002). 

In the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, as we commit ourselves to the safeguarding of minors, we need "to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected and, above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes" (Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Irish Bishops, 28 October 2006).

Continuing the work undertaken by his predecessors, and having heard the advice of a number of Cardinals, other members of the College of Bishops, and experts in the field, and having duly deliberated, Pope Francis now is forming a Commission for the safeguarding of minors.

Pope Francis has made clear that the Church must hold the protection of minors amongst Her highest priorities. Today, to carry forward this initiative, the Holy Father announces the names of several highly qualified persons who are committed to this issue.

This initial group is now called to work expeditiously to assist in several tasks, including: participating in the deliberations concerning the Commission’s final structure; describing the scope of its responsibilities; and developing the names of additional candidates, especially from other continents and countries, who can offer service to the Commission.

Certain that the Church has a critical role to play in this field, and looking to the future without forgetting the past, the Commission will take a multi-pronged approach to promoting youth protection, including: education regarding the exploitation of children; discipline of offenders; civil and canonical duties and responsibilities; and the development of best practices as they have emerged in society at large.

In this way, and with the help of God, this Commission will contribute to the Holy Father’s mission of upholding the sacred responsibility of ensuring the safety of young people.

10 comments (Add your own)

1. Robert wrote:
It's about time! This crises is not going away any time soon. Perhaps if world bishops had not tried to cover up these crimes for decades it might have been behind us by now but stupidity and Church policy of coverup have prevented that!

Sat, March 22, 2014 @ 10:05 AM

2. Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh wrote:
I am glad that such a commission is forming and that it will be independent from the CDF and will report directly to the Pope. However, the Pope has already shown the sexual predator clergy that he is weak and lacks the courage to make them accountable to civil law. So the commission is a sham, in my view. Civil law cares nothing about canon law. It is the job of civil law enforcement to deal with sexual predators. Sexual abuse is a crime and until the Pope comes to accept that all allegations must go directly to police for investigation, there will be no end to clergy sexual abuse in the church. I would have more hope in this commission if Archbishop Diarmuid Martin was appointed as the head, since I read that Cardinal O'Malley does not know who will be the head and he will be part-time with the commission and continue his work in Boston.
Sincerely, Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, Chicago

Sat, March 22, 2014 @ 11:11 AM

3. James wrote:
Now if the Jews and Protestants will do the same thing to help make reparation for the horrendous abuse which their children suffered at the hands of those clergy.

Sat, March 22, 2014 @ 12:18 PM

4. Stat crux dum volvitur orbis wrote:
I'm in agreement with Dr. McHugh's assessment above other than her putting forth the name of Archbishop Martin because I know nothing about him. But I think we can learn from the church fathers with regard to how to deal with pederasts. I believe St. Peter Damian's writings regarding this "cancerous" vice and the writings of St. Basil the Great are informative.

Sat, March 22, 2014 @ 4:34 PM

5. Gerry Dorrian wrote:
I agree with Dr McHugh above - the Pope should order archbishops to open their books on investigations of priests suspected of child abuse to their countries' police forces.

Sat, March 22, 2014 @ 8:22 PM

6. John Servorum wrote:
This Pontifical Commission, while vitally important, is simply another aspect of what has been an ongoing serious effort to correct the abuses of the past, an effort that has been working its way through the Church for 15 years or so.

While the press, the secular world and even many uninformed Catholics refuse to recognize the remarkable work that has been done to make things right in regards to the sexual abuse of children that took place in the Church, those who have followed the landmark efforts of Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict and others know that these occurrences are to a great extent a thing of the past.

Most of the abuse charges the Church has dealt with involved abuses that took place in the 1960's, 70's and early 80's.

While the sexual abuse of children is a worldwide tragedy, one that is firmly rooted in the secular world in public schools and families, little has been done outside of the Church to protect children.

As others have observed, the sexualization and abuse of children, "affects every secular and religious organization where there is sustained interaction between adults and children."
The incidence of sexual abuse of children in public school systems alone is enormous and to a great extent under-reported.

The Catholic Church has set a standard that should be emulated by all those who wish to see children live and thrive in safe surroundings, but it is painfully obvious that the secular world is far, far behind the curve and to a great extent unwilling to recognize the problem in its midst.

Sat, March 22, 2014 @ 10:10 PM

7. Lisa wrote:
Human situations can't be remedied as you do with the making of a concrete slab. It takes time, grace and patience. The more the depth of the wound , the longer the time needed.

This Commission is a wise step forward. May the Holy Spirit help them to do the best to remedy the harm done.

If we do away with our preoccupation for numbers may be we can do away with candidates unfit for a committed life. That involves taking formation seriously

Sat, March 22, 2014 @ 10:38 PM

8. Phil wrote:
I am in complete agreement with astute John Servorum's comment.

Too many Catholics don't have any idea of the progress the church has made to resolve this crisis and instead of studying changes in church procedures they have listened to the press, which inevitably ignores all of the changes put in place by the church during the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict.

Francis is just continuing this process as well he should. In fact Pope Francis praised Benedict for the efforts he made during his pontificate.

Francis said,
“The statistics on the phenomenon of violence against children are shocking, but they also clearly show that the great majority of abuses are carried out in family or neighborhood environments,”
Pope Francis continued. “The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have moved with transparency and accountability. No one else has done more. Yet the Church is the only one to be attacked.”

God bless Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis and God bless the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Sun, March 23, 2014 @ 1:03 PM

9. John Servorum wrote:
In addition to the children and families who were harmed by the clerical abuse scandal we must now also deal with the damage being done by those who are unfortunately using this scandal, even though it has been very effectively resolved, to promote their own agenda within the Church.
Calling for the ordination of women and the elimination of clerical continence (celibacy) are measures being pushed by those who stand opposed to longstanding Church doctrines and disciplines, although under the guise of supposedly preventing future scandals.
These people are radically resisting the voice of the Holy Spirit who has guided the Church from the time of Christ to our own. The Church should firmly resist, with every effort, the desires of those who would destroy the priesthood that Christ himself instituted.

Sun, March 23, 2014 @ 9:42 PM

10. Deacon John Edgerton wrote:
While I do not agree with all of Dr. Mc Hugh's comment, I do agree with her wish that Archbishop Diamuid Martin of Dublin, Ireland be appointed to head this new Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. It was Archbishop Diamuid Martin who turned over all the buried records of sexual abuse of children in the Archdiocese of Dublin to the proper civil authorities. Equally, if not more important, he held a Eucharistic Atonement Service, in the Cathedral of Dublin, vested in black vestments, along with his invited guest from America, Cardinal Sean O"Malley, OFM, Cap. Archbishop of Boston. Archbishop Martin took over the Church in Dublin after the abuses had taken place but then made the Church records of these criminal and moral abuses public and transparent by turning them over to public authorities. He also realized that the word sin needed to be mentioned and atoned for making him the the only Bishop who knew that the horror of these sins against living, innocent "Temples of the Holy Spirit" needed to be adressed before God and His Church. To the best of my knowledge there has been no other Archbishop or Bishop who has been so transparent with Diocesan records and so spiritually aware of the evil actions which were committed and even deliberately hidden from the People of God. When one thinks of Peter's Betrayal of Jesus in his denial of even knowing him, one must always remember that it was Peter who confessed about himself. We also must never forget Jesus words about fraternal correction In Matthew 18:15-18. We are our brothers keeper if we see him or her in wrong doing to confront out of compassionate love and mercy for their souls and those who they are offending in any way. Frankly, there should be a universal day of atonement for these sins of pediophilia and ediophila (homsexual sins with pubescent teenagers which account of rht majority of cases)since they seemed to be systemic in the Western countries of Christ's Church. And if one part of the Body is wounded, so are the rest of the Body of Christ. We are all sinners and we all need the mercy of God and to really embrace the Joy of the Gospel which our Holy Father Francis has been giving such a personal witness in word and action.

Mon, March 24, 2014 @ 11:23 AM

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