Pope appoints former child victim to church group on sex abuse

VATICAN CITY Sat Mar 22, 2014 12:35pm EDT

Pope Francis looks on as he leads a special audience with pilgrims from Terni's diocese in Paul VI hall at the Vatican March 20, 2014. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

Pope Francis looks on as he leads a special audience with pilgrims from Terni's diocese in Paul VI hall at the Vatican March 20, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Remo Casilli

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis on Saturday named a woman molested by a priest as a child to be part of a core group to help the Catholic Church fight the clerical sexual abuse of minors that has haunted it for over two decades

The first eight members - four women and four men - hail from eight different countries and include Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley, former Polish Prime Minister Hanna Suchocka and Baroness Sheila Hollins, a British psychiatrist.

The victim is Marie Collins, who was abused in her native Ireland in the 1960s and has campaigned for the protection of children and for justice for victims of clerical pedophilia.

"Pope Francis has made clear that the Church must hold the protection of minors amongst her highest priorities," Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said in a statement.

The formation of a group of experts, initially announced in December, comes just over a month after the United Nations accused the Church of putting its reputation before the well-being of children and imposing a "code of silence" among clerics on the issue of sexual abuse.

Accusations that Pope Francis has not taken a strong enough stand against clerical sexual abuse tarnished the overwhelmingly positive reviews he received on reaching the first anniversary of his election to the papacy last week.

Lombardi said the group would consider options such as criminal action against offenders, education about child exploitation, best practices to better screen priests and a clear definition of civil and clerical duties within the Church.


These initial members will be responsible for rounding out the "Commission for the Protection of Minors" with other international experts and defining the scope of its work.

O'Malley, a member of the pope's "kitchen cabinet" of eight cardinals, published in 2011 an online database of clergy in his Boston archdiocese accused of sexual abuse of minors.

Collins, a founding trustee of the Irish abuse victims support group One in Four, has urged the Vatican to punish bishops who fail to implement Church rules on finding pedophile priests and protecting children.

The United States-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) welcomed Collins's appointment but said the pope still had to "take strong steps right now to protect kids, expose predators, discipline enablers and uncover cover-ups."

Suchocka, who was prime minister in Warsaw in 1992-1993, served as justice minister from 1997-2000 and Polish ambassador to the Holy See from 2001-13.

Pope Francis has called sexual abuse of children "the shame of the Church" and has vowed to continue procedures put in place by his predecessor, Benedict XVI.

But he seemed to pay less attention to abuse than to other reforms. Defensive testimony by Vatican officials before the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child in January set of a wave of criticism that he was not bold enough on the issue.


The Argentine-born Jesuit pope has also been criticized for not appointing enough women to senior positions in the male-dominated Church, despite repeated statements about their equality with men.

The other members of the group are French child psychiatrist Catherine Bonnet, Italian canon law professor Claudio Papale and two Jesuit priests, Argentine moral theologian Humberto Miguel Yanez and German psychologist Hans Zollner.

Baroness Hollins is a former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the British Medical Association.

Separately, the Vatican announced on Saturday that British Monsignor Brian Ferme would be secretary of the Vatican Council for Economy to help German Cardinal Reinhard Marx in supervising the Holy See's financial and economic activities.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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Comments (10)
anotherview wrote:
This group appears like a beginning to cleanse the Church of predatory homosexual priests who commit sex crimes against boys. These evildoers have harmed innocents and the Church. Yet, the Church begins this cleansing with a failure to call things by their right name. The Church calls predatory homosexual activity “pedophilia.” This term means sexual attraction to youngsters 11 years old and younger. It generalizes enough to gloss both youngsters older than 11 and the predatory homosexual priests who performed sodomy on boys. The sex crimes against boys involved homosexual acts because the evildoing priests inserted their penises in the anuses of boys for carnal pleasure. Here, the behavior of homosexuality trumps the vanilla term “pedophilia.” Further, the term “predatory” fits the sex crimes here because the predatory homosexual priests did their sex crimes often for decades, and with the continuing connivance of Church officials. The philosopher Aristotle said, “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right name.” Granted that using the expression “predatory homosexual priests” tends to enflame the audience and perhaps introduce the controversy of homosexuality and its status in society. Yet the Church itself has found that homosexuals suffer from a profound disorder of mind. This illness has infected the Church to its detriment. The proper description of the criminals and their crimes will serve to open the eyes to the facts and information of these matters. In turn, the Church can identify the actuality of the environment fostering the sex crimes against boys by the predatory homosexual priests along with their enabling connivers. Then the Church can root out, defrock, and remove these evildoers from the Church ranks. The screening of candidates for the priesthood must include a strict profile to identify homosexuals in order to prevent them entering the Church ranks. By these means and others, to cleanse itself of evildoers, the Church can regain its role as a moral compass to the world.

Mar 22, 2014 10:26am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Yesyes wrote:

So, by your logic, the Church should only go after priests who sexually molest boys, but not those who sexually molest girls? Or do you believe somehow that boys were the only victims? Do you believe sexual abuse of children is okay as long it’s heterosexual and no sodomy was involved?
I’m eager to read your answer. I’m sure it will be fascinating

Mar 22, 2014 11:44am EDT  --  Report as abuse
f00 wrote:
The vast majority of Church abuse victims have been teenage boys. The pathology at issue has not been pedophilia, which involves pre-pubescents. It’s been homosexuality.

It’s interesting that a female victim was chosen for the committee. Considering that this Pope has been caving on fundamental Church principles, this may have been done to downplay the overwhelmingly homosexual character of the abuse. Can’t place queers in a bad light, that’s “judgmental.”

Mar 22, 2014 12:50pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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