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Abuse victim quits Pope's child protection panel


United Kingdom

Abuse victim quits Pope's child protection panel

A member of a group advising Pope Francis on how to root out sex abuse in the Catholic Church has quit citing resistance within the Vatican.

Marie Collins, an Irish woman who is herself a survivor of clerical abuse, said the special commission had suffered constant setbacks, “despite the Pope approving all its recommendations”.

“There are still men in the heart of the church, in the Curia, in Rome, in the administration of the church, who put other considerations before working with in cooperation with the Commission on the protection of minors,” said Marie Collins.

The panel known officially as the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was set up in 2014 by the pope. According the the newspaper the National Catholic Reporter, Collins’s decision to leave could undermine its credibility:

“At the moment the Commission that is charged with speaking about clergy sexual abuse, has no survivors of clergy sexual abuse on it. Several people have said that it is hard to imagine the Commission having credibility to speak about clergy sexual abuse if there are no survivors present on the Commission,” said journalist Joshua McElwee.

In February last year Briton Peter Saunders, the only other member of the commission who had suffered clerical sexual abuse, left to take a leave of absence after repeatedly criticising the commission’s work. It is unclear if he will return.

Saunders and Collins both threatened to resign as long ago as February 2015 unless bishops were made more accountable over cover-ups of rampant sexual abuse or failing to prevent it.

The 2014 initiative by Pope Francis was an attempt to address the bitter and long-standing scourge of child abuse which has dogged the Catholic Church.

Thousands of cases of sexual and physical abuse of youths by priests have come to light around the world in recent years as investigations have encouraged long-silent victims to finally go public with their complaints.

Victim support groups have repeatedly attacked the Vatican for its response to the crisis since it first emerged in the United States in 2002, saying successive popes have failed to grasp the gravity of the situation.

The Vatican said Pope Francis had accepted Collins’s resignation “with deep appreciation for her work”.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, who heads the commission, also thanked her and said the commission would look at her concerns at a meeting next month.