For a Pope who has hardly put a step wrong, the Church's handling of child abuse was becoming a worrying exception. But now his wisdom in appointing a council of eight cardinals to advise him has come into its own, writes The Tablet in an editorial.
On the advice of Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich, and one of the eight, Pope Francis has given the issue the priority it deserves by setting up a high-powered commission to move Church policy forward. Another of the eight, Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, has been made its chairman. These connections mean the commission will be close to the Pope in person, and therefore less easily smothered in Vatican bureaucracy.
The membership of the Commission is even more significant. Five of the eight named are laypeople, four of them women. They include one survivor of clerical sexual abuse, Marie Collins, who leads One in Four, an Irish organisation of abuse survivors. It has sometimes said uncomfortable things about the Church’s poor performance in this area.
Also appointed to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors is Baroness (Sheila) Hollins, a life peer and former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, who has specialised in the care of people with learning disabilities. Baroness Hollins has always pressed the Church to put the interests of survivors first.
An even more emphatic intention regarding the work of the Commission is revealed by the appointment of the Jesuit Hans Zollner, head of the department of psychology at the Gregorian University, who has emerged in the last few years as one of the world’s leading experts in the field. All the individuals named have a reputation for being uncompromising on the issue of child abuse by the clergy. One of their first duties, after devising their own constitution, will be to draw up universal guidelines applicable throughout the Church.
Fr Zollner said recently that while English-speaking Catholic hierarchies were generally making good progress in child protection, in other parts of the world movement was slow and the issues less well understood. 'English-speaking' is mainly code for countries whose legal system is based on common law.
FULL STORY Vatican abuse Commission contains right people for the job (The Tablet)