Nothing can bring a person out of a four-day battle with a mini-flu faster than a journalistic deadline! I actually wanted to write about the following important stories as they happened over the weekend (this is the first of two columns I will post today), but I could not even sit at a keyboard so this is catch-up Monday (although I actually rested most of the day) with the help of news.va. Lots of news these past days and, as you will see, lots more to come the rest of the week, I’m dedicating this column to the just-concluded three-day meeting of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. Other weekend news to come soon.
COMMISSION FOR PROTECTION OF MINORS ISSUES STATEMENT AFTER 3-DAY MEETING
The members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors gathered in Plenary Assembly February 6-8, in the Vatican. The following took part: Cardinal Sean O’MALLEY, OFM Cap. (United States), President; Mons. Robert OLIVER (United States), Secretary; Rev. Luis Manuel ALI HERRERA (Colombia); Catherine BONNET (France); Marie COLLINS (Ireland); Gabriel DY-LIACCO (Philippines); Sheila HOLLINS (England); Bill KILGALLON (New Zealand); Sr. Kayula LESA, MSC (Zambia); Sr. Hermenegild MAKORO, CPS (Zimbabwe); Kathleen MCCORMACK (Australia); Claudio PAPALE (Italy); Peter SAUNDERS (England); Hanna SUCHOCKA (Poland); Krysten WINTER-GREEN (United States); Rev. Humberto Miguel YÁÑEZ, SJ (Argentina) and Rev. Hans ZOLLNER, SJ (Germany).
This year’s meeting was the first opportunity for all 17 members of the recently expanded Commission to come together and share their progress in the task entrusted them by the Holy Father, namely to advise him in the safeguarding and protection of minors in the Church.
During the meetings, members presented reports from their Working Groups of experts, developed over the past year. The Commission then completed their recommendations regarding the formal structure of the Commission and agreed upon several proposals to submit to the Holy Father for consideration.
The Working Groups are an integral part of the Commission’s working structure. Between Plenary Sessions, these groups bring forward research and projects in areas that are central to the mission of making the Church ‘a safe home’ for children, adolescents, and vulnerable adults. These include: pastoral care for survivors and their families, education, guidelines in best practice, formation to the priesthood and religious life, ecclesial and civil norms governing allegations of abuse, and the accountability of people in positions of responsibility within the Church when dealing with allegations of abuse.
The Commission is keenly aware that the issue of accountability is of major importance. In its Assembly, members agreed on an initial proposal to submit to Pope Francis for consideration. Moreover, the Commission is developing processes to ensure accountability for everyone in the Church – clergy, religious, and laity – who work with minors. Part of ensuring accountability is raising awareness and understanding at all levels of the Church regarding the seriousness and urgency in implementing correct safeguarding procedures. To this end, the Commission also agreed to develop seminars to educate Church leadership in the area of the protection of minors.
Following on from the Holy Father’s Letter to Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences and to Superiors of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, dated February 2, the Commission looks forward to collaborating with churches on a local level in making its expertise available to ensure best practices in guidelines for the protection of minors.
The Commission is also preparing materials for a Day of Prayer for all those who have been harmed by sexual abuse. This will underscore our responsibility to work for spiritual healing and also help raise awareness among the Catholic community about the scourge of the abuse of minors.
Pope Francis writes in his letter to Church leaders, “families need to know that the Church is making every effort to protect their children”. Conscious of the gravity of our task to advise the Holy Father in this effort, we ask you to support our work with prayer. (Vatican Radio)
CARDINAL O’MALLEY: COMMISSION ON SEX ABUSE TO STRESS BISHOPS’ ACCOUNTABILITY
(Vatican Radio) – Speaking to the press on Saturday, February 7, Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, said the 17-member Commission’s primary role is to help bishops conferences not just respond to accusations but also to protect minors and vulnerable adults.
To do this the Commission is setting up working groups, with outside consultants, on issues such as outreach to victims, the nature of abuse, Church law governing cases and accountability.
Cardinal O’ Malley stressed that key to all of the Commissions’ work is collaboration with local churches around the globe and with Vatican dicasteries. One idea being considered is workshops for people working in the Roman Curia and for new bishops who come to Rome for orientation courses.
Referring to the Holy Father’s just-issued Letter to Bishops and Religious Superiors on this very matter, Cardinal O’Malley added that each conference will be asked to name a contact person to work with the Commission for Child Protection.
Another area that comes under the Commission’s mandate is to collaborate with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in ensuring that the guidelines for child protection sent in by the bishops conferences follow best practices.
He said “96 % of bishops conferences have sent their child protection guidelines to the Vatican” adding that the Commission will “reach out” to the remaining 4%, most of whom are from developing churches that may lack the adequate resources for the task.
Here the Cardinal underlined that, without norms, bishops sometimes improvise when faced with accusations of abuse by clergy, mistakes are made and people are hurt.
In this regard, he said the child protection commission is “very, very concerned” about accountability of bishops and working on policy recommendations for the Holy Father’s approval.
These would include consequences for bishops who do not comply with child protection norms, or respond to allegations.
Cardinal O’Malley was joined Saturday at the ress office by Peter saunders, a member of the Commission from South West London. Saunders, a survivor of abuse himself, established NAPAC, the National Association for People Abused in Childhood. He told reporters that the accountability of bishops is a central concern of Child Protection Commission, adding that he came to the Vatican “with trepidation”, but the Commission meeting has given him “hope for change.”
Saunders said, “There is a determination that what happened to me and others will not happen again.”
Also present Saturday was Sister Kayula Lesa, a Religious Sister of Charity from Zambia, who has extensive experience in education and in child protection. She added that the Church at all levels must protect all minors from abuse not just within the Church, but also in family and wider society.
To this end, the Commission will propose a Day of Prayer for survivors of abuse, for the Holy Father’s approval.