CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 9 December 2017

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Vatican commission on child abuse hits a rock

VATICAN (SE): A foundation member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Marie Collins, tendered her resignation effective from March 1.

Collins is a survivor of clerical sexual abuse and has long been a voice championing the right of survivors to speak out and be listened to. An educationalist, she worked with the archdiocese of Dublin, Ireland, in the setting up of its Child Protection Services.

She was always considered a key member of the commission, but has resigned on the grounds of frustration at the lack of cooperation its work has received from other offices in the Roman Curia.

It is the second blow the Vatican commission has received in a week. On February 23, another member, Kathleen McCormack, told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney, Australia, that the budget allocated by the Vatican is far too small to complete the job description.

She described the funding allocated to the worldwide commission as resembling that of a diocesan office more than an international committee, saying that despite this, she keeps her hopes up, although it is like water smashing on a rock.

Collins was more specific, saying, “The stumbling blocks include lack of resources, inadequate structures around support staff, slowness of forward movement and cultural resistance.”

She pinpointed the reluctance of some members of the Roman Curia to implement the recommendations of the commission, despite the fact that they have papal approval.

Collins pointed out that in the beginning, the commission had neither office nor staff and finding an entry point into dialogue with Vatican dicasteries was a long and painful process.

Even when in 2016 a liaison person in each dicastery was appointed, there were long delays in communication and cooperation.

She also revealed that a commission to deal with negligent bishops and religious superiors was recommended and supported by Pope Francis, but has only met unspecified canonical restraints.

Although Pope Francis recommended it in As a Loving Mother, Collins says that she cannot find out if anything has been done or not and, in addition, the dicastery responsible for guidelines for bishops’ conferences simply will not cooperate with the commission.

At the Australian commission hearing, David Justice McClellan extolled the importance of the Vatican in affecting a real change in the fundamental culture and practices of the Church, saying that will only occur if it comes from Rome.

“The picture you all paint… is of a world organisation which is struggling to come to terms with the safety of children,” the family court judge told McCormack.

The Vatican commission was set up in March 2014. Pope Francis described its charter as being “to propose to me the most opportune initiatives for protecting minors and vulnerable adults, in order that we may do everything possible to ensure that crimes such as those which have occurred are no longer repeated in the Church.”

He described its extended duties as including the promotion of “local responsibility in the particular Churches and uniting their efforts to those of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for the protection of all children and vulnerable adults.”

Vatican Radio reported the president of the commission, Sean Cardinal O’Malley, as saying in tribute to Collins’ work, “We will certainly listen carefully to all that Marie wishes to share with us about her concerns and we will greatly miss her important contributions as a member of the commission.”

Collins has agreed to remain in an educational and consultative role at the commission at the invitation of Cardinal O’Malley, who described her as having exceptional teaching skills and, as a survivor of abuse, making a powerful impact through her testimony.

The American cardinal thanked her for agreeing to continue working with the commission, which has 17 members representing all five continents in the world.

Collins pointed out that when she accepted the role in 2014, she said that she would resign if there was a lacuna between what was being said in public and what was happening behind closed doors.

“That point has come,” she said in a statement, adding that even an instruction from the pope to every dicastery to reply to every communication from every victim of sexual abuse is not being implemented.

“I feel I have no choice but to resign if I am to maintain my integrity,” Collins said.

However, she notes that while she is disappointed, she is not bitter and believes that the work of the commission is making a valuable contribution in important areas.

She is also highly supportive of Pope Francis, saying, “I believe the pope does at heart understand the horror of abuse and the need for those who hurt minors to be stopped.”

However, she had a word for those who appeal to his commitment to mercy, saying that they do a great disservice to all, including the pope himself, as she does not believe that he understands how his actions of mercy can undermine everything else he does in the work of countering abuse.

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