A commission established to advise Pope Francis on preventing sex abuse in the church released a report on Monday outlining new measures it hopes will help safeguard vulnerable children.
Following a week of meetings in Rome, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors announced several new initiatives, including a training program for bishops and a day of prayer for victims of sex abuse.
For years, bishops and priests have been accused of covering up sex abuse in the church by moving pedophile priests from parish to parish and not reporting incidents to the police.
Even the Vatican failed to take action over the years ― a misstep Pope Francis has tried to remedy in part by setting up the commission at the end of 2013.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley heads the commission of 17 members, which also
includes the Vatican’s former sex-crimes prosecutor, Bishop Charles
Scicluna, Rev. Hans Zollner, head of the Center for Child Protection at
the Pontifical Gregorian University, and one abuse survivor, Marie
The commission reported that its members have already engaged in
ongoing efforts to educate clergy on sex abuse prevention by delivering
talks and workshops on all five continents.
These efforts will continue in the coming months, it said in the
report, with trainings for new bishops held by the Congregation for the
Evangelization of Peoples and the Congregation for Bishops, a department
of the Roman Curia that oversees the selection of most new bishops.
The commission has also scheduled workshops in Mexico, Ecuador and
with the Colombian Bishops Conference, among a number of other planned
Zollner and Scicluna are scheduled to work with new bishops in parts
of Africa and Asia. Zollner said he hopes to bring new bishops the
message that “the one very important thing you can do as a bishop in
this issue is to listen to survivors, to sit down with them, to give
them your time, to open your ears and to open your heart, to welcome
them,” he told AP on Monday.
The report also announced the establishment of a day of prayer, which
Pope Francis has asked bishops conferences around the world to
implement on a day of their choosing.
“The Commission believes that prayer is one part of the healing
process for survivors and the community of believers,” the announcement
stated. “Public prayer is also an important way of consciousness raising
in the Church.”
Doubts remain, however, as to how effective these new measures will
be in helping abuse victims heal and preventing future incidents of
abuse from arising.
Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who was
portrayed in the film “Spotlight” as a key figure in bringing the crisis
to light in 2001, told CBS News he believes the commission’s initiatives will have little more than a “cosmetic effect.”