Last December, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis would establish a commission dedicated to the protection of minors, at the recommendation of the Council of Cardinals. Today the initial membership of that commission was announced; five of the eight members are lay, and four of those members are women. One of them, Irishwoman Marie Collins, is a well-known advocate for victims’ rights and was herself the victim of sexual abuse by a priest.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston is one of three clergymen named to the new commission, and the only North American representative. In a statement accompanying the announcement of the commission’s membership, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, SJ mentioned that additional members from other countries will be selected by the commission in the future. Some biographical information about the members can be found here.
The eight initial members are:
– Dr. Catherine Bonnet (France);
– Marie Collins (Ireland);
– Prof. Sheila Hollins (United Kingdom);
– Cardinal Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap. (United States);
– Prof. Claudio Papale (Italy);
– Her Excellency Hanna Suchocka (Poland);
– Fr. Humberto Miguel Yañez, SJ (Argentina);
– Fr. Hans Zollner, SJ (Germany)
The full text of Father Lombardi’s statement, via Vatican Radio:
As Blessed John Paul II declared, “People need to know that there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young…. So much pain, so much sorrow must lead to a holier priesthood, a holier episcopate, and a holier Church” (Address of John Paul II to the Cardinals of the United States, 23 April 2002).
In the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, as we commit ourselves to the safeguarding of minors, we need “to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected and, above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes” (Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Irish Bishops, 28 October 2006).
Continuing the work undertaken by his predecessors, and having heard the advice of a number of Cardinals, other members of the College of Bishops, and experts in the field, and having duly deliberated, Pope Francis now is forming a Commission for the safeguarding of minors.
Pope Francis has made clear that the Church must hold the protection of minors amongst Her highest priorities. Today, to carry forward this initiative, the Holy Father announces the names of several highly qualified persons who are committed to this issue.
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.
Certain that the Church has a critical role to play in this field, and looking to the future without forgetting the past, the Commission will take a multi-pronged approach to promoting youth protection, including: education regarding the exploitation of children; discipline of offenders; civil and canonical duties and responsibilities; and the development of best practices as they have emerged in society at large.
In this way, and with the help of God, this Commission will contribute to the Holy Father’s mission of upholding the sacred responsibility of ensuring the safety of young people.