(Vatican Radio) Survivors of sexual abuse by priests have reacted with concern to the news that Irish abuse survivor Marie Collins has resigned as a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
In an interview with Vatican Radio on Wednesday, Collins spoke of her frustration at the lack of cooperation from other offices of the Roman Curia with the Commission, set up by Pope Francis in 2014.
Another founding member of the Commission, Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, said on Thursday that despite her resignation, the group would continue its crucial work of promoting a culture of child protection throughout the Church worldwide.
Fr Hans, who also heads the Gregorian University’s Centre for Child Protection, spoke to Vatican Radio’s Alessandro Gisotti..
Fr Hans says that Marie told him several weeks ago she was intending to step down and he fully respects her decision. He notes he has worked together with her for five years, since she spoke about her experience at the Gregorian University symposium on child protection in 2012 “in front of 120 bishops and 35 superior generals.” He says he understands that she felt “frustrations” that she was not listened to and that “as she says, there are some quarters in the Vatican …that do not cooperate fully and with the speed necessary with the Commission.”
Survivors' voices "may be even stronger"
Fr Hans says her departure will have “an impact on how people see the Commission”. He notes that [the other abuse survivor on the Commission] Peter Saunders did not step down, but is on leave and he stresses that all the other 14 members, including Cardinal Sean O’Malley, have met with hundreds of survivors of sexual abuse. Fr Hans reveals he’s been contacted by survivors concerned about Marie’s resignation and he says their voice is “maybe even stronger now”. The next meeting of the Commission will be focused on how to represent that voice, he says, adding that the Commission had already announced that abuse survivors will speak at their meeting in September, the last plenary session of the current term of this Commission.
Collins to continue training work
While Marie said she was stepping down to maintain her integrity, Fr Hans notes she has given a positive summary of the work of the Commission. He also stresses her desire to continue working with the Commission, as well as with the Centre for Child Protection, for which she has agreed to do a video, recounting her story as a victim of abuse for participants in the Centre’s online courses, currently available in 25 countries worldwide. She has also agreed to remain a part of the Commission’s team which trains members of the different Vatican offices.
Awareness needs to be put into action
Asked about the achievements of Pope Francis on this crucial issue, Fr Hans says the most important result is that wherever he travels on the five continents “this topic is on the plate of debate in every corner of the world”. He and other members of the Commission will be travelling later this month to Colombia and Malawi, with other encounters scheduled with bishops conferences in all parts of the word.
Changing heads and hearts
What still needs to be done, he says, is for the words of Pope Francis, and his predecessor Pope Benedict, to be put into action, not only “through guidelines and papers” but through “changes of mentality and attitude, and that will take time”. As detailed in the current issue of La Civiltà Cattolica, Fr Hans insists that some positive changes have been put in place - like a day of prayer and a new procedure for bishops’ accountability – but, he adds, “there is much more to do” which requires working “steadily and in a sustainable way so that brings a change of head and of heart”