The decision to reappoint only two non-religious members of the Vatican’s child protection commission has been described as “disappointing” by leading advocate and former commission member Marie Collins, adding that this is “not a hopeful sign”.
The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was established in 2014 for a three-year period, closing on December 17, 2017, but it has been in abeyance since then while new members were being approved. The new members were announced on February 16.
Mrs Collins, who served as one of the commission’s original members until her resignation last year, says that the six lay members of the commission whose terms were not renewed were “the most active and independent” members of the commission, four of them having led working groups.
“The group that was dealing with all the survivor issues and the care of survivors – there were only four members in it and all three lay members are gone now,” she told The Irish Catholic.
“And they were in it because they were the three people with the most on the ground experience of dealing with survivors and with protection.”
“I think it’s significant that the idea in the beginning was to bring international external experts in to advise the Pope,” Mrs Collins explained, adding that the original lay members wanted the involvement of clerical members to work on canon law and theology.
“There were eight lay members, and of those eight there are now only two left, yet all the clerical and religious members who were willing to remain were allowed to remain,” she said.
Expressing confusion at why experienced experts who were working on projects were not reappointed Mrs Collins expressed a concern that some commission members may have been too independent-minded. “That’s not always comfortable for the Church, but that was the whole point of this group – it was to bring in challenging views and new views as to how this whole issue should be handled by the Church.
“If you’re not comfortable with that and prefer to have comfortable views and go back to the way you were handling it in the past – so be it, but that’s not a hopeful sign for radical change,” she added.