Ongoing difficulties forced survivor’s hand
The sole Irish member of the Pope’s child protection commission has stepped down, three years after joining the Vatican body.
Dubliner Marie Collins, one of two abuse survivors who were founder members of the advisory body in March 2014, is understood to have informed the commission of her wish to resign some weeks ago. Pete Saunders, the London-based head of the UK’s National Association for People Abused in Childhood, was suspended from the commission in February 2016.
“I have resigned from the commission,” Mrs Collins told The Irish Catholic. “There is no animosity between myself and the commission. I still support the members and the work they’re doing, and I also still believe the Pope is sincere in his attitude to stopping abuse.”
“But,” she added, “there are difficulties that I just couldn’t continue to contend with, and I’ve reached a point where I have to leave.”
Mrs Collins, who has previously spoken of resistance within the Vatican to the commission’s work, said, “It just reached a point where the difficulties being put in front of the commission were such that I personally as a survivor can’t continue, but I do wish it well, and I do hope that in the end it will achieve what it set out to do, and that is change and safer environments for children and vulnerable adults.”
Although agreeing with other commission members who have spoken in recent weeks about difficulties facing the commission owing to a lack of funding, Mrs Collins said this was not a significant factor in her decision. “There are other stumbling blocks that have been put in the way of the commission and it has been extremely stressful,” she said.
Her announcement comes against a background of reports that Pope Francis has discreetly decided against laicising a handful of clerical abusers in favour of other sanctions where they would be kept out of ministry, something that Teresa Devlin, CEO of the Irish Church’s safeguarding board, told The Irish Catholic, “can have significant benefits for the safety of children” if the perpetrator co-operates with his management plan.
While saying this development sends out the wrong signal, since “it makes the Pope look weak on abuse”, Mrs Collins stressed this was wholly unrelated to her decision, and said keeping abusive priests within monitored Church structures was quite different from allowing offenders return to ministry.
Expressing concerns that Pope Francis may be badly advised by people appealing to his emphasis on mercy, she repeated her confidence in him, “From what I’ve seen, it doesn’t appear that he has changed his mind on zero tolerance. I think he’s still firm on that.”
It is understood that Mrs Collins will continue to cooperate with the commission in an educational capacity.
A press statement from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors follows:
WEDNESDAY 1 MARCH 2017
On Monday, February 13, 2017, Mrs. Marie Collins, a Member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors [PCPM] advised Cardinal Sean O’Malley, President of the PCPM, of her intent to resign from the Commission effective March 1, 2017.
Mrs. Collins, a Member of the Pontifical Commission since its inception in 2014 is a survivor of clerical abuse, and consistently and tirelessly championed for the voices of the victims/survivors to be heard, and for the healing of victims/survivors to be a priority of the Church. In discussing with the Cardinal, and in her resignation letter to the Holy Father, Mrs. Collins cited her frustration at the lack of cooperation with the Commission by other offices in the Roman Curia.
Mrs. Collins accepted an invitation from Cardinal O’Malley to continue to work with the Commission in an educational role in recognition of her exceptional teaching skills and impact of her testimony as a survivor.
The Holy Father accepted Mrs. Collins resignation with deep appreciation for her work on behalf of the victims/survivors of clergy abuse.
The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was established by Pope Francis in March of 2014. The Chirograph of His Holiness Pope Francis states specifically, “The Commission’s specific task is to propose to me the most opportune initiatives for protecting minors and vulnerable adults, in order that we may do everything possible to ensure that crimes such as those which have occurred are no longer repeated in the Church. The Commission is to promote local responsibility in the particular Churches, uniting their efforts to those of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the protection of all children and vulnerable adults.”