By Brian Mark Hennessy

From the point of view of a “Survivor”, who has long observed all the ultra-right trappings with which John L Allen Jr comments upon the Catholic Church in his weekly “CRUX” writings, I am not surprised at the arrogance of his disingenuous treatment of Marie Collins. His comments were not just thoughtless and in bad taste, but insulting – and not just to Marie Collins either, but to all Survivors – innocent children – who are the Victims of clerical sexual abuse. John L Allen Jnr should now get off his high horse, reflect a little on his miss-judgements before he indulges in his natural tendency to defend himself – and apologise unreservedly.

That term – “clerical sexual abuse” – has, at times, acquired in the writings of some commentators an almost sanitized glow to it – and so let us call it by what it is. None other than the United Nations has described the heinous crime of sexual abuse against innocent children as a form of “torture” due to its cruel, degrading and punitive nature –  and the UN went on to comment about the lifelong scars that can be afflicted upon such victims and the many forms of “restitution” that must be made. (“Restitution” in that context does not refer specifically to payments of money – I should add for those priests of the Comboni Missionary Order who said of “their” Victims of clerical sexual abuse “you are all money grabbers”!).

I have commented myself upon John L Allen Jnr’s articles on a number of occasions before because of his lack of both subjective research and distinctive idiomatic knowledge. He has shown himself to be, at times, almost thoughtless and unbalanced in the speed with which he jumps to make judgements regarding the intentions of both Victims of child sexual abuse and those who spend a lifetime in doing their best to represent them. He possesses an intellectual “blind spot” to all the hurdles that the Catholic Church places in the way of Victims. I assume that, quite deliberately, he allows himself this limited latitude of direction to forestall progress in what he would most probably understands as part of a “left-wing” agenda. His ability to find no faults with the Vatican Curia is suggestive of a self-created role as a “Champion” of the beleaguered Catholic Church.

Allen has shown that he is impervious to the cold and often callous treatment of the wrecked and wretched lives of the child Victims of cruel, sexual abuse. No doubt too, he applauds the remarks of Cardinal Muller in an article below, “I believe this can’t be resolved only by threatening with punishment, either civil or canonical.” In truth, the Vatican Hierarchs remain today, in practice and in word, more concerned with the welfare of those within their ranks who have committed life-destroying heinous “crimes” – than the innocent children who were damaged by those same clerics’ callous, depraved, self-gratifying acts of lust.

Whilst Christ said, “Suffer not little children to come unto me”, the Vatican Hierarchs welcome with open arms those cruel clerics who ravaged childrens’ innocent, youthful bodies and destroyed their minds. As regards those same children, Cardinal Muller is not shy in saying he cannot be bothered even to write a letter to thank Victims for bringing evil crimes of abuse by clerics within their ranks to their attention and to say what action they intend take. Without any form of written acknowledgement, how will those children know if anyone has even received their letter. “Oh – some Bishop or Religious Leader will contact you,” Muller is likely to add in his blindness to the needs and suffering of Victims.

I have personal experience of failed expectations of a letter from the Vatican. Two years ago I sent a document to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, but received no reply. A year ago, I badgered the Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, relentlessly over the matter. Ultimately, Cardinal Nichols delivered to the CDF a copy of the report by hand on behalf of those many seminarians abused by clerics of the Comboni Missionary Order at the Mirfield, Yorkshire Seminary – and Cardinal Nichols confirmed that he had done so. Not a peep from CDF or anybody else in the multitudinous dicasteries of the Curia by way of a response! For all I know the 177-page document may have been handed to the CDF’s janitor to light the Sistine Chapel stove at the next conclave! Hopefully, Pope Francis lives long enough to see it retrieved from such destruction.

Not that any Cardinal in the Vatican is going to tell the lay faithful of the Church, but, surprisingly, there is much enshrined in Canon Law in relation to the rights of the Lay Faithful – and they should be cognizant of it and demand that they should be heard. To start with, the Church comprises not just clerics – but all the baptized Christian Faithful – and it is about time the Lay element of that Christian Faithful started to let clerics know that those clerics are not superior to them – but equal in Canon Law. Yes, there were “Elders” in the Early Christian Church who imparted their knowledge and wisdom, but every widow, slave, merchant and farmer had an equal voice at the table where bread was broken – and that should still be the case now. The Pope and the Vatican’s primary and sole role is to be the “Guardians” of the Gospel traditions. The lavish trappings and symbols of status that were bestowed on bishops and other clerics by Byzantine Emperors to assist in the administration of their Empires – more than a thousand years ago – are superfluous historical flotsam and jetsam that have no place in the Catholic Church today. That is why the narcissism, protectionism, lack of introspection and sheer arrogance of so many clerics of all ranks – is so utterly and contemptuously not just un-Godly, but downright un-Christian! The following Canons should be learned by heart by all Lay Catholics!!!!

Can. 208: From their rebirth in Christ, there exists among all the Christian faithful a true equality regarding dignity and action by which they all cooperate in the building up of the Body of Christ.

Can. 220: No one is permitted to harm illegitimately the good reputation which a person possesses.

Can. 221 §1: The Christian faithful can legitimately vindicate and defend the rights which they possess in the Church in the competent ecclesiastical forum according to the norms of law.

Can. 227: The lay Christian faithful have the right to have recognized that freedom which all citizens have in the affairs of the earthly city.

Can. 1417 §: By reason of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff, any member of the faithful is free to bring or introduce his or her own contentious or penal case to the Holy See for adjudication in any grade of a trial and at any stage of the litigation.


Why Survivor’s Exit From Papal Panel May Be A Blessing In Disguise

By: John L. Allen Jr.March 1, 2017

Although the optics of the exit of the lone survivor serving as an active member of Pope Francis’s anti-sex abuse commission aren’t good, the reality is that naming survivors as members puts them in an extremely awkward spot, trapped between their loyalties to the Vatican and to fellow survivors.

In terms of the optics of the situation, there’s just no way in which the departure of Marie Collins, the only abuse survivor who was also an active member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, looks good for Pope Francis.

Citing frustrations with resistance to the commission’s work from within the Roman Curia, Collins announced today that she’s stepping down, though she’ll continue to work with the group in delivering anti-abuse training to clergy. Her exit comes at a time when Francis’s standing with survivors was already taking hits, in part because of revelations that he’s lightened the punishments imposed on several abuser priests in what the pontiff sees as a spirit of mercy, but what critics regard as a breakdown in accountability.

Certainly, the bureaucratic inertia and power games described by Collins raise legitimate questions about how serious the Vatican may be in terms of its commitment to reform. However, if one looks at the situation dispassionately, there’s also a case to be made that Collins’s resignation, along with the inactive status of the only other survivor on the commission, Peter Saunders of the UK, was both inevitable and arguably for the best.

Here’s why. When Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston and his team at the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors recommended that the pope name Collins and Saunders as members, the intentions were obviously noble. O’Malley understands from extensive personal experience that if you want to understand the spiritual and emotional devastation caused by clerical sexual abuse, there simply is no substitute for hearing the voices of survivors.

They also know that any credible clean-up effort has to be informed by the insights and perspectives of survivors, or it won’t fly. That’s not just a once-and-for-all fact of life but an ongoing one, since survivors need to be at the table whenever new problems and challenges arise, and to help monitor the implementation of whatever plans have been hatched.

In retrospect, however, making individuals such as Collins and Saunders full members of the commission turned out to place them in a politically untenable spot that was neither fair to them nor, ultimately, helpful to the commission.

Both Collins and Saunders were well-known as survivors of clerical abuse long before their nomination to the commission, with a reputation for outspokenness and leadership in the fight against abuse. That was a large part of the reason they were selected, on the theory that their credibility in the survivors’ community would translate to the papal commission.

The reality, however, is that being perceived as part of the pope’s official team and the Vatican’s power structure often left them trapped between their loyalty to the commission and their loyalties to their fellow survivors. Anytime a controversy arose, whether about the commission’s work or some other decision the pope or the Vatican had made with regard to sexual abuse, it was dicey for them to figure out how much they could say publicly, how hard they could push back, because they also felt obligated to try not to handicap or embarrass the group.

When Francis named a bishop in Chile in 2015 with a track record of defending that country’s most notorious abuser-priest, for instance, the decision troubled many abuse survivors and their advocates around the world. It left both Collins and Saunders in an especially difficult spot, because their fellow survivors looked to them to speak up, to lead the protests, and yet their institutional role on the commission made doing so politically complicated.

The reality likely is that survivors of clerical abuse will never be fully satisfied with the Church’s response, and that’s as it should be. Survivors, especially those with the courage to go public, need to be free to speak out and to help keep the Church honest, cajoling it to remain eternally vigilant – if necessary, even shaming it into action.

That’s an essential role, but awfully difficult to play when, at the same time, one is also part of the “system.”

Moreover, it’s not as if making survivors full members of the commission is the only way to ensure that their voices are heard. Collins herself is now an illustration of the point, no longer sitting on the group but still accepting an invitation from O’Malley to continue to be part of their training efforts, including for newly appointed bishops from around the world.

Survivors can be brought in routinely as consultants and advisers, they can be asked to take part in the commission’s meetings, they can participate in various projects and initiatives, and so on, all without being forced to carry the political weight for whatever decisions are reached – and remaining free to speak up if they believe those decisions are flawed.

The commission can also organize listening sessions with abuse survivors around the world, on the premise that the experience of a survivor in, say, Western Europe, is likely very different from that of someone in sub-Saharan Africa or the Indian subcontinent.

The bottom line is that the exit of Marie Collins isn’t necessarily the end of the road in terms of abuse survivors being represented on the pope’s commission. It could actually mean a transition to a more honest, freer, and less personally conflicted way of doing it. Problem with anti-abuse panel isn’t survivors, it’s the Roman Curia


[CRUX Editor’s note: In the wake of the resignation of the last clerical abuse survivor to serve as an active member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Irish lay woman Marie Collins, Crux editor John L. Allen Jr. published an analysis suggesting that the outcome may have been both inevitable and desirable. Collins objected via social media, and Crux offered her the opportunity to reply. The following is that response.]


The Problem With Anti-Abuse Panel Isn’t Survivors, It’s The Roman Curia

By: Marie Collins – March 5, 2017


Crux editor John Allen’s recent argument that my resignation from the pope’s anti-abuse commission will “free me up” and allow me to feel less “conflicted” is not only inaccurate, but patronizing. The problem with the commission isn’t having survivors as members, but opposition from clerical men in the Roman Curia.

Firstly I want to thank Crux for offering me the right of reply. Although in the article I am combined with Peter Saunders, I am here speaking only for myself. I was quite disturbed reading this article as in many cases John Allen purports to know my feelings and how I was thinking in certain situations. I found this not only to be inaccurate, but also patronising.

The statement that my resignation was “inevitable” is certainly not true. There was no “inevitability” of my leaving, unless Allen knew in advance that there were men in the Roman Curia who would be obstructing the commission, and I would refuse to cover it up! I accepted my appointment to the Pontifical Commission with every intention of remaining for my full term.

The article seems to imply that because I was sexually abused by a priest in childhood I am incapable of independent thought or action, that I must always be looking over my shoulder concerned how my words or actions might be seen by survivors outside the commission. It also stated that I was put in a “politically untenable spot.”

If Allen knew me and my record in working for child protection over twenty years, he would know I have always kept completely clear of “politics,” both Church and survivor politics. I have concerned myself solely with bringing better understanding of the effects of abuse on a victim’s life and better protection of the vulnerable. I have always followed my own conscience and not seen myself as a representative of any group. This at times has angered some survivors, but that has never swayed me from my determination to be independent.

Allen states that my selection for appointment to the commission was partly in order that “credibility in the survivor community would translate to the papal commission.” If this is true (I do not know who are the sources for this) it would indicate enormous deceit in those who spoke to me on behalf of the pope before I accepted my appointment.

I was clear then I had no intention of being a “token” survivor there to add “credibility.” I was assured strongly this was not the case. I was being asked in order to bring my personal understanding of abuse as a survivor into the Commission as this perspective was of vital importance to the work.

I had been chosen specifically because of my experience of working on safeguarding policy development, having been involved in the setting up of a diocesan child protection office, my involvement in educational projects on child protection and the response to my participation in the 2012 Symposium on abuse held in the Gregorian University.

Therefore, I was qualified to work on policy development, to impart understanding of the survivor experience and had shown in the past my ability to work with the Church. If all this was a lie, then shame on those men of the clergy who made these statements to me. It would validate every accusation that the Church only cares for optics not the reality.

At no point during my time with the Commission did Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston [president of the commission] or members of the commission treat me with anything other than respect as an equal, working for the better protection of children. I certainly never felt my contribution was seen as only as a name on the member list!

Allen states that it was “dicey” at times for me to “figure out how much to say in public.” I can say without hesitation that at no time did I have any difficulty in discerning what I could or could not say in public. I at all times respected the confidentiality rules as per the statutes of the commission, and would not have accepted my appointment if I had felt I was not capable of so doing.

The statement that survivors “will never be satisfied” in the context of the article implies that I would never be satisfied and that this in some way was the motivation for my resignation. If all dioceses in the Church replicated the policies and their implementation as some dioceses have, e.g. the Archdiocese of Dublin in Ireland, then we would be in a much better place. What I do say is no one in the Church or the secular world should ever be complacent about the safety of children or vulnerable adults.

Finally, Allen says in regard to survivor input to the commission in the future, that now I have resigned, “it could actually mean a transition to a more honest, freer, and less personally conflicted way of doing it.” I would assure anyone who is interested that I at all times was honest, free and did not spend my time “personally conflicted.”

The article clearly uses a familiar device – when in difficulties divert attention away from the actual problem. Survivors on the commission are not the problem – the resistance to change by clerical men in the Curia is the problem!


 (CRUX – Editor’s Note: German Cardinal Gerhard Muller, whose Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was cited by abuse survivor Marie Collins as part of the reason for her resignation from Pope Francis’s anti-abuse commission, has fired back, saying it’s time to drop the “cliche” of a reforming pope being hobbled by internal opposition in the Vatican).


Drop The ‘Cliché’ Of A Reforming Pope v. Vatican Foes, Cardinal Says

By Vatican Correspondent Inés San Martín – March 6, 2017


ROME-The head of a powerful Vatican office cited by the last survivor of clerical abuse to serve as an active member of the pope’s anti-sexual abuse commission as part of her reason for resigning has fired back, saying it’s time to drop the “cliché” of Pope Francis wanting reform and his opposition in the Roman Curia seeking to block it.

“Sustaining the pope’s universal mission, trusted to him by Jesus, is part of our Catholic faith and the ethos of the curia,” said German Cardinal Gerhard Muller, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Asked to explain why Marie Collins had decided to resign, he said that the work his department and the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors is very different. The congregation, he said, carries through the canonical process against the clerics accused of the gravest crimes.

“Yet the congregation has cooperated in the constitution of the commission,” Muller said. “One of our collaborators is part of it. I can affirm that in these last years there’s been permanent contact.”

Marie Collins had spoken of “shameful lack of cooperation” within some sections of the Roman curia, the Vatican’s governing body, and eventually spoke specifically about the CDF being part of the problem.

Speaking with Corriere della Sera, Muller said, “I believe that we have to end with this cliché, the idea according to which on the one side there is the pope, who wants reform, and on the other, a resistance wanting to block it.”

Talking to America, Collins had also spoken about the CDF’s refusal to send a letter of acknowledgement to survivors who send letters to the Vatican, something which she claimed had been proposed by the commission and approved by the pope. Every Vatican office was supposed to do it, but a monsignor from Muller’s wrote back saying they wouldn’t.

On this, Muller said that it’s the responsibility of the local bishops, or superior generals when abuse was committed not by a diocesan priest but by a religious, to give pastoral support to survivors.

“The congregation has the task of running canonical trials,” Muller said. “Personal contact with the survivors is better done by local shepherds. And when a letter arrives, we always ask the bishop to provide pastoral care to the victims, clarifying to them that the congregation will do everything possible to do justice.”

It’s a misconception, he said, to believe that the office in Rome could take care of all the dioceses and religious orders in the world, because it would not respect the “legitimate autonomy of dioceses and the principle of subsidiarity.”

Asked about what Collins had said to Crux and other outlets regarding lack of cooperation from members of the curia, Muller said in the interview published on Saturday that beyond the letters, he knew of no such cases.

Another issue many observers saw as one of the reasons behind Collins’s resignation was the idea of a new tribunal, suggested by the commission and approved by the pope, to judge bishops accused of dropping the ball on abuse allegations. That tribunal was announced, then quietly dropped.

According to Muller, it was discussed between Vatican departments after the announcement was made, and they reached the conclusion that the Congregation for Bishops already has what’s needed to prosecute bishops for what they did or didn’t do regarding specific cases of clerical sexual abuse.

Closing the interview, Muller also said that a global change of mentality is needed, not only within the Church, when it comes to sexual abuse of minors, and that with the commission Pope Francis attempted to set an example.

“I believe this can’t be resolved only by threatening with punishment, either civil or canonical,” Muller said. “We need a total change of mentality: From selfishness on sexuality, to the full respect of the person.”




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s