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Pontifical Commission For the Protection of Minors
Commission of the Holy See for the safeguarding of minors
Cardinal Seán O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston, has been its first and current president since 17 December 2014.
Pope Francis's chirograph for the Institution of a Pontifical Commission for the Protection of minors (22 March 2014) states:
The aim of the Commission is to promote the protection of the dignity of minors and vulnerable adults, using the forms and methods, consonant with the nature of the Church, which they consider most appropriate, as well as through their cooperation with individuals and groups pursuing these same objectives.
The Pontifical Commission assists diocesan/eparchial Bishops, Episcopal Conferences and Eastern Hierarchical Structures, Superiors of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and their Conferences in developing appropriate strategies and procedures, through Guidelines to protect minors and vulnerable persons from sexual abuse and to provide an appropriate response to such conduct by clergy and members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, according to canonical norms and taking into account the requirements of civil law.
The pope appoints the Commission's president and secretary and members to five-year terms. The members need not be clerics; all are to be "distinguished by science, proven ability and pastoral experience". The Commission advises the pope and proposes "initiatives for the protection of minors and vulnerable persons". It assists bishops and their organizations as well as all forms of religious associations "in developing appropriate strategies and procedures [...] to protect minors and vulnerable persons from sexual abuse and to provide an adequate response to such conduct by the clergy' and other religious. In doing so it follows "canonical norms" and considers as well "the requirements of civil law". Though part of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Commission has its own officials and operates according to its own norms.
On 5 December 2013, following a meeting of the Council of Cardinal Advisers, Cardinal Seán O'Malley announced that Pope Francis had decided to create a commission for the protection of minors to evaluate current programs, propose initiatives, and identify personnel to implement them, "including lay persons, religious and priests with responsibilities for the safety of children, in relations with the victims, in mental health, in the application of the law, etc." Pope Francis created the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and named its first eight members on 22 March 2014. They were tasked with drafting the Commission's statutes to "define its tasks and competencies".[a][b]
On 10 September 2014, Father Robert W. Oliver, the chief prosecutor of clergy for sex abuse crimes at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was named the Commission's secretary. On 17 December 2014, Pope Francis added eight members to the Commission, including a second abuse survivor, Peter Saunders, head of a UK-based organization of sexual abuse survivors, and experts from five continents, bringing the total to 17 (the original right, the secretary, and the additional eight), eight of them women.[c] This announcement identified O'Malley as president of the Commission for the first time.
The Commission met for the first time on 6-8 February 2015, and on 8 May released the Commission's statutes, which were dated 21 April 2015.
The statutes declared the Commission "an autonomous institution attached to the Holy See". It was to propose initiatives to promote local responsibility, based on extensive consultations church officials, including local jurisdictions, organizations of religious, and Curial departments. Its maximum membership was set at 18, appointed to three-year terms. The terms of the president and secretary may be renewed. It details the procedures for meetings, setting the Commission's agenda, and delegating questions to work groups. The norms described were given force for three years, at which point the members could propose modifications.
In 2015, Commission member Marie Collins, former victim of abuse, has criticized the Vatican for failing to sufficiently fund the panel, a problem she claims could jeopardize the commission's work. The commission has been advised to consider raising its own funds to complete the work.
In February 2016, the commission members watched the Oscar-nominated film Spotlight together. The movie dramatizes the 2001 experience of the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative team at the Boston Globe as they uncovered and exposed systematic sex abuse and subsequent cover-ups by clergy and members of the church hierarchy in Boston.
In February 2017, Marie Collins resigned from the commission stating: "there are still men at that level in the church who would resist or hinder work to protect children in 2017, it's just not acceptable".
Upon the expiration of the members' terms in December 2017, on 17 February 2018 Pope Francis relaunched the commission with major personnel changes. He reappointed O'Malley, Oliver and six other members and adding nine new members, eight men and eight women.[d] Several of those members of the commission are victims of clerical sexual abuse, but the commission said it would respect their decision not to identify themselves publicly.
Pope Francis explained that the Commission was placed there because that Dicastery "deals with sexual abuse on the part of members of the clergy" and it was "not possible to have a 'satellite commission', circling around but unattached to the organization chart." He told the members of the Commission: "Someone might think that this could put at risk your freedom of thought and action, or even take away importance from the issue with which you deal. That is not my intention, nor is it my expectation. And I invite you to be watchful that this does not happen." Commission secretary Andrew Small described the relationship as tying the Dicastery's role in "the administration of justice" to the Commission's "focus on safeguarding and protection".
^Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See Press Office, enlarged upon their task: "This initial group is now called to work expeditiously to assist in several tasks, including: participating in the deliberations concerning the Commission's final structure; describing the scope of its responsibilities; and developing the names of additional candidates, especially from other continents and countries, who can offer service to the Commission."
^In a departure from Vatican practice, the members were listed in alphabetical order without distinguishing between clerical rank or lay status. The eight were:
Catherine Bonnet, a child psychiatrist and author of works on "the effects of sexual abuse and exploitation on children"
Marie Collins, abuse survivor, "campaigner for the rights of abuse victims"
Krysten Winter-Green, expert in theology and social work
Bill Kilgallon, director of the New Zealand Catholic church's Office for Professional Standards
Sister Hermenegild Makoro, secretary general of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference
Kathleen McCormack, longtime director of the social services agency of the Diocese of Wollongong
Sister Kayula Lesa, Zambian activist against human trafficking, member of the African Forum for Church Social Teaching
Gabriel Dy-Liacco, a Filipino who teaches at the Regent University School of Psychology and Counseling in Maryland
Rev. Luis Manuel Ali Herrera, Colombian psychologist and professor of pastoral psychology
^Those reappointed were: Gabriel Dy-Liacco, Luis Manuel Alí Herrera, who was now an auxiliary bishop of Bogotá, Fr. Hans Zollner, SJ, Prof. Hannah Suchocka, Sister Kayula Lesa, and Sister Hermenegild Makoro.
The new members were: