Pope Francis, on Saturday, appointed eight members to a special commission to look into Sexual Abuse within the Church. The linked article, from the International NY Times, appears to be somewhat vague, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/23/world/europe/pope-names-members-of-anti-abuse-group.html?hp. It doesn’t seem to list an official Mission Statement, and whether the Commission will report directly to the Pope, or to one of his key advisors.
The (as yet) eight-member commission includes just three priests, and four of the five lay members are Women. Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, is a central figure of the Church’s response to the sexual abuse problem in the U. S., and one of the eight Cardinals advising Francis on Vatican reform. Of the two other priests, one is from Argentina and one is from Germany. So, I assume that Cardinal O’Malley will have the Pope’s ear in this matter. Let’s hope!
The most interesting appointment is Marie Collins, an Irish Woman who was abused as a Child. She had become a national activist in basically holding the Church’s feet to the fire with regard to sexual abuse. In a telephone interview, she said: “…there’s a lot of expectations for this commission, particularly from survivors.” She went on to say: “…the commission’s priorities should include requiring dioceses to report abuse to civil authorities, responding to victims with a pastoral and not an adversarial legalistic approach, and holding bishops who covered up accountable. “Until bishops who protected abusers are removed, it’s very hard to have confidence’”, she said.
The other lay members include: a retired specialist in child and adolescent psychology from France; a mental health specialist from UK; a canon lawyer from Italy and a former Polish Ambassador to the Vatican. Other than the one priest from Argentina, the other members are all from Europe and the U. S. The commission members will name additional members, to include from Developing Countries, where sexual abuse in the Church is still considered taboo.
Now, commissions can be empowered to actually accomplish something, or they can merely end-up as having been much ado about nothing. The inclusion of Cardinal O’Malley provides some hope and the comments by Ms. Collins appear to provide somewhat of an early, but well thought-out, roadmap. But, any recommendations will still have to wind their way through the Vatican Bureaucracy–the Roman Curia. So, let’s hope that Francis can set them on a fast-track.