Survivors of sexual abuse by priests have reacted with concern to the news that Irish abuse survivor Marie Collins has resigned as a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
In an interview with Vatican Radio
on Wednesday, Collins spoke of her frustration at the lack of
cooperation from other offices of the Roman Curia with the Commission,
set up by Pope Francis in 2014.
Another founding member of the Commission, Jesuit Father Hans
Zollner, said on Thursday that despite her resignation, the group would
continue its crucial work of promoting a culture of child protection
throughout the Church worldwide.
Fr Hans says that Marie told him several weeks ago she was intending
to step down and he fully respects her decision. He notes he has worked
together with her for five years, since she spoke about her experience
at the Gregorian University symposium on child protection in 2012 “in
front of 120 bishops and 35 superior generals.”
He says he understands
that she felt “frustrations” that she was not listened to and that “as
she says, there are some quarters in the Vatican …that do not cooperate
fully and with the speed necessary with the Commission.”
Survivors' voices "may be even stronger"
Fr Hans says her departure will have “an impact on how people see the
Commission”. He notes that [the other abuse survivor on the Commission]
Peter Saunders did not step down, but is on leave and he stresses that
all the other 14 members, including Cardinal Sean O’Malley, have met
with hundreds of survivors of sexual abuse.
Fr Hans reveals he’s been
contacted by survivors concerned about Marie’s resignation and he says
their voice is “maybe even stronger now”.
The next meeting of the
Commission will be focused on how to represent that voice, he says,
adding that the Commission had already announced that abuse survivors
will speak at their meeting in September, the last plenary session of
the current term of this Commission.
Collins to continue training work
While Marie said she was stepping down to maintain her integrity, Fr
Hans notes she has given a positive summary of the work of the
Commission. He also stresses her desire to continue working with the
Commission, as well as with the Centre for Child Protection, for which
she has agreed to do a video, recounting her story as a victim of abuse
for participants in the Centre’s online courses, currently available in
25 countries worldwide. She has also agreed to remain a part of the
Commission’s team which trains members of the different Vatican offices.
Awareness needs to be put into action
Asked about the achievements of Pope Francis on this crucial issue,
Fr Hans says the most important result is that wherever he travels on
the five continents “this topic is on the plate of debate in every
corner of the world”. He and other members of the Commission will be
travelling later this month to Colombia and Malawi, with other
encounters scheduled with bishops conferences in all parts of the word.
Changing heads and hearts
What still needs to be done, he says, is for the words of Pope
Francis, and his predecessor Pope Benedict, to be put into action, not
only “through guidelines and papers” but through “changes of mentality
and attitude, and that will take time”.
As detailed in the current issue
of La Civiltà Cattolica, Fr Hans insists that some positive
changes have been put in place - like a day of prayer and a new
procedure for bishops’ accountability – but, he adds, “there is much
more to do” which requires working “steadily and in a sustainable way so
that brings a change of head and of heart”