Abuse reforms undermine Commission’s independence

Vatican reforms independence

An Irishwoman who advised Pope Francis on clerical abuse has warned that reforms of the Roman Curia will further erode the independence of the Vatican body.

Marie Collins (pictured), a survivor of clerical sexual abuse, who served on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, said she was concerned that the Vatican reforms could lead to the body losing independence.

Collins said that the Curia reorganisation unveiled by Pope Francis on March 19, which will see the Commission become part of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, will further undermine the work of the body she was once part of.

“When I was on the Commission, we got a lot of resistance to our work from the doctrinal congregation. They basically felt that we were interfering. And that, I believe, is the norm in the Vatican. They really do not like anyone who are seen as outsiders coming in,” Collins told The Irish Catholic.

Collins quit her Vatican role in 2017, warning that “the reluctance of some in the Vatican Curia to implement recommendations or cooperate with the work of a commission, when the purpose is to improve the safety of children and vulnerable adults around the world, is unacceptable.”

Under the pope’s new apostolic constitution for the Roman Curia, due to take effect in June, the Commission will now work “within” the newly renamed Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. However, it will continue to have its own offices, officials and statutes.

Collins said if Pope Francis thought a department should oversee the commission’s work, the doctrinal dicastery would be the wrong one.

The problem “all along” with how the church handled abuse was that “it was looked at as a legal problem and a problem of discipline. But it’s not, and the (doctrinal dicastery) has a very bad history of dealing with survivors in a caring and healing way; that has not changed in recent times, either,” she said.

But Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, who heads the Commission for the Protection of Minors, praised the reforms of “Praedicate Evangelium” (“Preach the Gospel”). He insisted that “for the first time, Pope Francis has made safeguarding and the protection of minors a fundamental part of the structure of the Church’s central government: the Roman Curia.

“Linking the Commission more closely with the work of the new Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith represents a significant move forward in upgrading the place and mandate of the Commission. This can only lead to a stronger culture of safeguarding throughout the Curia and the entire church,” O’Malley said.

Cardinal O’Malley continued, “the renewed and reaffirmed Pontifical Commission will play an increasingly incisive role in ensuring the church is a safe place for children and vulnerable persons.”


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