Retain Abuse Survivors in the Pontifical Commission Or Risk Irrelevancy
(Brian Mark Hennessy has paraphrased this Editorial which appeared in the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) on 1st September 2017 – and provided additional comments below).
It is distressing to learn that the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors may be restructured so that survivors of sexual abuse by clergy may have no direct voice in that body. The commission has helped the church make great strides in addressing this global issue, but it is in danger of becoming irrelevant. Signs of trouble with the commission began to surface in 2016, a year after its inception, when one of two abuse survivors on the commission, Peter Saunders, was suspended. The trouble became acute when the sole remaining survivor on the commission, Marie Collins, resigned earlier this year. Collins resigned because she felt Vatican bureaucracy was neglecting and stalling the work of the commission. The commission is understaffed, underfunded and not accepted by offices at the Vatican that should be working with it, Collins said.
In 2015, Pope Francis announced the creation of this commission. At that time, NCR said:
“It is a new phase in the abuse crisis. For the first time, there is clear evidence that the people’s cry for justice and action has reached the Pope and his closest advisers.”
We were then told that, on the recommendation of the Pope’s nine-member Council of Cardinals, a Tribunal would be established to charge bishops of “abuse of office” when they mishandled cases concerning the sexual abuse of children. At that time, NCR said:
“Never before has the language describing the mishandling of these cases by bishops, and, by extension, their diocesan officers, been so strong.”
Regrettably, that Tribunal never came to be. We have now been told, two years later, that what was announced was not an “approved plan”, but was rather the “enthusiastic encouragement” from the Pope to begin a discussion of possibilities. Is this not a further example of the same intransigence and obfuscation that drove Collins from the commission?
“Why in the world would anyone, including pontifical commission members, think that a papal announcement which said one thing actually meant another?” NCR now asks.
“Why has it taken two years for this clarification to be given?” NCR now asks.
The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors began well and has made huge contributions in educating Catholics across the globe about the issue of abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. It has given many people the tools to address the issue. The job entrusted to the commission is too important to the life of the church to allow the body to fade into irrelevance. To prevent irrelevancy, the commission must ensure that survivors have direct participation in its work – and the commission itself needs a strong, public endorsement by Francis.
Comments by Brian Mark Hennessy
Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse at the hands of the Comboni Missionary Order fully endorse the National Catholic Reporter in their historic struggle to bring both those clergy who have abused children to account and, additionally, also those members of the Catholic Hierarchy who have failed in their Christian and Civil duties by protecting and shielding those same child-abusing clerics from justice.
Indeed rather than abandoning the original very clearly expressed wishes of Pope Francis to establish a Tribunal, the Comboni Survivors of child sexual abuse at the hands of the members of the Comboni Missionary Order declare emphatically that the promised Vatican Tribunals should be extended to charge all Superior Generals, Provincial Superiors and Local Superiors who have similarly covered up crimes of child sexual abuse by clerics under their governance – and have protected those perpetrators of such heinous criminality from Justice.
It is abundantly clear that the members of the Lay Catholic Church, who, as baptized Catholics, are equal in Canon Law to the Ordained Clergy of the Church, demand this. The Vatican will continue to be regarded as errant, pretentious, dysfunctional, and increasingly irrelevant whilst severe and appropriate justice for child abusers and those who protect them is outrageously ignored by Vatican, Diocesan and Religious Clerics.