One of the Church’s front-line fighters against child sexual abuse, German Jesuit Fr Hans Zollner, is in Australia this week to share his experience and promote safeguarding efforts, reports The Catholic Leader.
With a reputation as a reformer, Pope Francis named Fr Zollner a founding member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in 2014. Fr Zollner is president of the Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
Fr Zollner spoke to The Catholic Leader about his visit to Australia, including Brisbane where he spoke to bishops and priests and held a public session on Saturday.
Could you describe your mission to Australia?
I have been invited by [Brisbane] Archbishop Coleridge and [Adelaide] Archbishop Wilson to present on the situation of safeguarding efforts worldwide and, I guess, from a “Roman” point of view.
I have been privileged to travel to about 50 countries on six continents, and being member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors has given me the great opportunity to get an insight and a “feeling” for the worldwide Church.
I was in Sydney, Canberra and Ballarat last year, meeting with Church personnel, government officials, university professors and – most important for me – meeting again with survivors of abuse in Ballarat.
I had met them twice in Rome, during the hearings of Cardinal (George) Pell by the Royal Commission, and was impressed to see what has been achieved by them in terms of safeguarding in St Alipius’ and St Patrick’s in Ballarat.
What can parishioners, lay leaders, youth ministry members hope to learn from attending your talks?
I would like to share my experience, observations and reflections on how the Church faces this scourge of abuse, and what is being done in terms of safeguarding.
In the second presentation, I will underline the “forgotten dimension”, the theological and spiritual implications of abuse, first of all the spiritual trauma that many survivors have described to me as the most severe trauma they have suffered.
But then there is the very strange phenomenon that Church leaders and faithful concentrate in their reactions often on (canon and civil) law as well as on psychology and psychiatry.
Yet the inherent spiritual and theological questions have not yet been addressed.
Child Protection Week launched (The Southern Cross)