Challenging Pope Francis on clerical child abuse

When abuse victim Marie Collins claims the Roman Curia is frustrating efforts to implement decisions which will make the church a safer place for children, we must take notice

A feature of the clerical child abuse scandals that emerged in Ireland over recent decades has been the central role women played in bringing them to light. As pertinent has been the male-determined legalistic mindset they’ve had to deal with in response. The latter has consistently favoured structure over the suffering of children and its prevention.

Next Monday will mark the 20th anniversary of the broadcasting by RTÉ of Dear Daughter, the documentary wherein the late Christine Buckley and other women detailed their experiences as children in Dublin's Goldenbridge orphanage. What was intended as a feel-good story of orphan girl meeting long-lost father became something more explosive at the insistence of Ms Buckley; then also lobbying politicians to help all who had been in such institutions as children.

Then too the late Mary Raftery, with Sheila Ahern, was at work on her ground-breaking States of Fear series which recounted the horrors of what had been going on in those same residential institutions for children. In 2002 her Cardinal Secrets programme exposed the handling of clerical child sex abuse allegations in Dublin's Catholic archdiocese.

Before them all was Marie Collins. This naturally reserved woman began her public journey with the Church on the abuse issue in 1985, as recommended by a therapist but driven by anxiety that her abuser might still have access to children. He had, despite church awareness of his history. Over the past 30 years, few people have been better educated than Collins in the ways of church bureaucrats. She has seen it all – their evasions, "delays" and "difficulties" – on her road to being the only abuse survivor, and a woman, on the Vatican's Commission for the Protection of Minors.

So when she claims that the Roman Curia is frustrating efforts by Pope Francis and his Commission to implement decisions which will make the church a safer place for children, we must take notice. She has made these concerns known to the Pope and it is essential that he acts on them. Otherwise children will pay the price.