The Church's latest step toward the prevention of the sexual abuse of minors is the newly-announced Vatican commission, which is expected to collaborate with the Jesuit-run Centre for Child Protection.
“The task of the new commission will be greater than what the Centre for
Child Protection would ever be able to realize,” the center's
president, Fr. Hans Zollner, told CNA Dec. 6.
“We take care of
delivering a program with the aim of educating pastoral personnel. At
first glance, this will be an occasion to collaborate with the
He added that “three months ago, we decided that the Centre for Child
Protection would be moved to Rome at the end of the pilot phase – that
is, at the end of 2014, and this will surely open many opportunities for
the synergies O’Malley talked about.”
Cardinal Sean O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston, announced Dec. 5 that Pope
Francis “has decided to establish a very specific commission for the
protection of children,” which had been proposed by the group of eight
cardinals he had assembled to advise him on reform of the Roman Curia
and the governance of the Church.
The commission will be officially launched by a document by Pope
Francis, and will probably work together with the Centre for Child
Protection, which is run the Pontifical Gregorian University and is the
fruit of the 2011 conference “Toward healing and renewal,” hosted at the
The center, the offices of which are in Munich, is a collaboration of
the Gregorian University, with the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising as
well as the University of Ulm's departments of psychiatry and infant
and adolescent psychotherapy.
It functions as a source of distance learning, over the internet and in
various languages, for the competencies necessary for confronting and
preventing the sexual abuse of minors.
The Vatican commission's task will be much the same. Cardinal O'Malley
said that among its responsibilities will be “to study the
present programs in place for protection of children and to come up with
suggestions or new initiatives on the part of the curia in
collaboration with the bishops and the episcopal conferences,” and its
staff will include experts in various fields, including psychology.
The commission marks the latest instance in the Vatican's response to clergy sex abuse.
In 2002, under the leadership of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued the instruction “De
delictis gravioribus” to face the sex abuse scandal.
The instruction was issued because dioceses, failing to report cases of
sexual abuse to Rome, had neglected to take measures against the priests
responsible, often merely transferring them.
When Cardinal Ratzinger was elected Pope in 2005, he continued his
concern for the issue, further strengthening protective measures and
meeting discreetly with victims, praying with them and asking
forgiveness on behalf of the Church.
In 2010, in the midst of the Year of the Priesthood, Pope Benedict at
Fatima imposed penance on the Church over the sexual abuse scandal.
The following year, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
delivered a letter to the world's bishops' conferences, asking that they
adopt stringent guidelines to fight such abuse by May, 2012.
The letter highlighted five key points: assistance to the victims of
sexual abuse; protection of minors; education of future priests and
religious; helpful support for guilty priests; and collaboration with
Pope Francis' decision marks one more step forward in the Church’s
response to the abuse of minors. Cardinal O'Malley noted that it “will
be able to advise the Holy Father about the protection of children and
the pastoral care for victims of abuse.”