Marie Collins challenges assertions by top Vatican cardinal

Protection of minors: Cardinal says did not understand Collins’s talk of lack of co-operation

Abuse survivor Marie Collins has strongly challenged assertions made by one of the most powerful Vatican cardinals in an interview he gave after she resigned from the Vatican's Commission for the Protection of Minors earlier this month.

Speaking to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera last week, Dean of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) Cardinal Gerhard Muller said he did not understand her talk of lack of co-operation by the CDF with the commission which, he said, had been in permanent contact with it.

A CDF staff member was part of the commission, he said.

He described a commission proposal, approved by Pope Francis, to set up a tribunal within the CDF to deal with bishops who failed to protect children, as "a project", and said he "never had the chance" to meet Ms Collins.

Responding this week to that interview, in an open letter to Cardinal Muller, Ms Collins points out that they had indeed met. “Cardinal, it seems you have forgotten the evening we spent seated together at a small dinner in Dublin after my appointment to the commission?”

Also present “were other CDF officials, including Msgr John Kennedy and then Fr Robert Oliver”, she noted.

‘A project?’

She forcefully contested Cardinal Muller’s describing the CDF tribunal holding bishops to account as “a project”. It was “a project you say, only a project?” The commission, she said, had “recommended it, the Council of Cardinals and the pope approved it, and then it was rejected by your congregation”.

She said if all necessary means were already in place to deal with such bishops, as Cardinal Muller asserted, “why then has no bishop been officially, transparently sanctioned or removed for this negligence? If it is not lack of laws, then is it lack of will?”

On Cardinal Muller’s inability to understand her claim of non co-operation by the CDF with the commission, she recalled how invitations to attend commission working groups were declined by the CDF over the years, until September last.

And she noted, in response to his claim that a member of CDF staff was part of the commission, the person he referred to had not attended a commission meeting since October 2015 and the commission was not notified of his resignation until last May.

Safeguarding guidelines

Cardinal Muller said he knew nothing about a CDF refusal to co-operate with the commission’s work on safeguarding guidelines, or to acknowledge letters sent to the Vatican by abuse survivors.

Ms Collins reminded him that the CDF had written to the commission as recently as last December rejecting both requests.

In conclusion, she asked “that, instead of falling back into the Church’s default position of denial and obfuscation, when a criticism like mine is raised, the people of the Church deserve to be given a proper explanation.

“We are entitled to transparency, honesty and clarity. No longer can dysfunction be kept hidden behind institutional closed doors. This only succeeds as long as those who know the truth are willing to remain silent.”

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times