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Pope’s sex abuse panel to continue its work without victims — for now

Pope Francis talks with Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley, left as they arrive for a consistory at the Vatican on Feb. 13, 2015. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Tony Gentile

ROME (RNS) Pope Francis’ sex abuse panel has pledged to continue its work minus the two sex abuse victims who were appointed to help overhaul the Catholic Church’s response to the scandal.

Irish abuse survivor — a term many prefer to be known by — Marie Collins recently resigned from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. British abuse survivor Peter Saunders stepped down from the commission a year ago and has called for more urgent action to tackle perpetrators of these “vile crimes.”

But a commission statement vowed that victims of clerical abuse should have a voice in the future.

“Commission members have unanimously agreed to find new ways to ensure its work is shaped and informed with and by victims/survivors,” read a statement released after concluding a meeting in Rome on Sunday (March 26).

Irish abuse victim Marie Collins, left, who has quit the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, looks at the commission head, Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, during their first briefing at the Holy See press office at the Vatican on May 3, 2014. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi

Collins, who was sexually abused by a priest at age 13, resigned on March 1, citing what she called “shameful” resistance to commission proposals from the Vatican’s powerful doctrinal office, which is responsible for pursuing cases against abusive priests and bishops.

Saunders stepped aside after publicly calling for Australian Cardinal George Pell to be dismissed after news reports surfaced that he had protected pedophile priests in Australia. Pell serves as the Vatican’s finance chief.

Asked if the panel would include survivors in the future, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, told the online Catholic service Crux on Monday: “We’re grappling with that right now as a commission. Perhaps having survivors who were known as survivors was part of the reason they got so much attention.”

Saunders, who was abused as a child by two Jesuit priests and the head of a Catholic primary school, established the National Association for People Abused in Childhood 16 years ago in the United Kingdom. He said there was a need for more urgent action to protect children at risk.

Peter Saunders talks during a news conference in Rome, Italy February 6, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Tony Gentile.

“Many people contact me to ask if the pope is serious,” Saunders told RNS Monday. “We know there are many priests in place who should be moved.

“Cardinal Gerhard Muller from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said it was up to local dioceses, but the reality is they are not doing enough. Globally it is still a big challenge and there is a reluctance of local bishops to act.”

In its statement Sunday, the commission expressed support for Collins and individual members told the media they endorsed her criticism of the doctrine office.

“I fully support Marie Collins’ statement,” said Baroness Sheila Hollins, a U.K. psychiatrist and child abuse expert.

Hollins also said that the commission was listening to survivors and would not be rushed into appointing a survivor to the panel.

“Sometimes these survivors contribute to our work without being identified,” she said. “The pressure of being identified is sometimes unbearable.”

(Josephine McKenna covers the Vatican for RNS)

About the author

Josephine McKenna

Josephine McKenna has more than 30 years' experience in print, broadcast and interactive media. Based in Rome since 2007, she covered the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and election of Pope Francis and canonizations of their predecessors. Now she covers all things Vatican for RNS.

8 Comments

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  • …on and on it goes, simply institutionalized Evil in Christ’s name, period. It doesn’t get anymore satanic …unless you include the middle east genocide and global destruction of a ‘christian congress’.

  • By now It should be obvious to all, that this commission was a delay tactic from it’s inception. The Church has known for decades what changes must be made to protect children and to prevent bishops from keeping dangerous secrets. The church continues to treat victims horribly. Bishops with records of lying, putting children in danger and causing more pain to victims are being promoted, not punished.
    Francis could remove the pontifical secret with the stroke of a pen but refuses to. He is using the secret as a tool to prolong and prevent accountability to complicit bishops.

    As a victim of repeated rape and sexual assault by a Milwaukee Archdiocese priest, I was re injured by the callous and cruel 5 year fraudulent bankruptcy cooked up by Dolan and executed by Listecki.

    I am sickened by the lack of care about this issue from men who claim to be holy. They act more evil than holy.

    The church has had decades to understand and sincerely deal with this issue. It refuses to. It never was a lack of knowledge or procedure it was the lack of will and the disdain the church has for secular law and the victims of the churches creation.

  • Since the RCC historically hasn’t shown concern about the victims, I’m sure they will have no problem carrying on without their input. Victims tend be a hindrance when your goal has been to hide your sins.

  • “Of course Pope Francis has established he is part of the problem,” Peter Saunders said last year when he was booted off the sex abuse commission. “The Vatican’s powerful doctrinal office” are the pope’s subordinates and do as he orders. They also follow the pope’s example of personally protecting sexual predators and NEVER removing any bishop who has aided and abetted these criminals as he did in Argentina.

  • I’m quite sure that apart from the actions of the commission, the RCC, and other organizations involved with this problem, God Himself is not without recourse. We may not see the effects of His response, but I’ve no doubt they will be clear, just, and appropriate and managed in His own time. This does not obviate the obligation of the RCC and other churches to get on effectively with the task of addressing and mitigating the evils of these crimes.

  • I’ve just had lengthy conversations with people who insist that all of the evil committed by other Christians and justified by them as the word of god just means that those people weren’t true Christians, like my interlocutors are.

    Amazing.

  • I’m well aware. They try to justify the vilest of depravities, even refuting the overwhelming amount of scriptures, morals and ethics that reject them… even to the point of siding with institutionalized pedophilia.

    Evil can be cunning and manipulative in it’s own feeble way, if one isn’t rooted in the Spirit of Truth.

    Not amazing at all… depending on which is interpreting it.

    “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” Keyword: pleasure.

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