Abuse survivors ‘frustrated’ by resistance to Vatican reforms

Resignation of Marie Collins highlights reluctance to change processes in Holy See

Marie Collins, who has resigned from the Holy See’s Commission for the Protection of Minors. She said the “last straw” was the refusal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to respond to letters from abuse survivors. Photograph: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters

Marie Collins, who has resigned from the Holy See’s Commission for the Protection of Minors. She said the “last straw” was the refusal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to respond to letters from abuse survivors. Photograph: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters

 

No one who knows how the Vatican works can be surprised by the resignation of abuse survivor Marie Collins from the Holy See’s Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Appointed to the commission at its inception in March 2014, she has found herself frustrated for much of the last two years when dealing with certain departments in the Holy See, in particular the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

In an interview with The Irish Times, she said the “last straw” had been the refusal of a “particular dicastery” (the CDF) to respond to letters from abuse survivors.

Some outsiders might be surprised at what Collins called the CDF’s refusal to “change their processes”. However, there are many corners of the Holy See where people are reluctant to change both processes and their pastoral approach in response to Pope Francis’s attempted reform of the Curia.

Unequivocal support

Collins has always stated that, in her view, Pope Francis has given his full and unequivocal support to the commission’s work.

Resistance to the commission starts with sections of an Italian-dominated curia which, in its heart of hearts, may still feel that the clerical sex abuse problem is an “Anglo-Saxon” fixation.

How else does one explain the fact that Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) finally published its guidelines for the protection of minors only in 2014?

The Irish Catholic Church has had some form of guidelines in place since 1996.

Worse still, when it came to the “mandatory reporting” of priest abusers in Italy, those guidelines limited themselves to urging co-operation with civil authorities but argued that bishops have no Italian legal obligation to report abuse allegations to police or other civil authorities.

The tragic aspect of that norm was illustrated just last month by the case of Don Gianni Trotta, a priest laicised by the CDF in 2012 for sex abuse crimes. Not “signalled” to civic authorities following his removal from the priesthood, Trotta was allowed to take over the training of an under-11 boys’ football team in the province of Foggia in Puglia, southern Italy.

Stand trial

Currently in prison serving an eight-year sentence for the sexual abuse of an 11-year-old boy, Trotta this month will stand trial, charged with the sexual abuse of nine other boys.

To some extent, some of Collins’s reservations appeared to be shared yesterday by fellow commission member Jesuit Hans Zollner, head of the Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

Speaking to the National Catholic Register, Fr Zollner said that he understood Collins’s frustration with the fact that not everybody was “on the same page” with regard to abuse prevention and best practices.

“Canonically, we are on the same page, but we are not on the same page in regards to attitudes,” he said.

“If you look into the Church worldwide, there are differences that are culturally bound and, in the wider sense, also politically bound. So this is what is difficult to bear for a survivor.”

Fr Zollner acknowledged that these differences in approach were also found within the Curia, as stated by Collins in her letter of resignation.

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