‘Punish’ Bishops who ignore protection rules

The appointment by Pope Francis of abuse survivor and prominent campaigner Marie Collins has been welcomed as a sign of the Vatican’s serious commitment to make the voice of those who suffered abuse central in decision-making.

The Vatican has announced that Mrs Collins will serve as a member of the newly-established Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin described Mrs Collins as “a person of great integrity and determination.

“I am grateful to her for accepting the appointment, knowing that over the years she had many reasons to have felt frustration  and disappointment by the failings and the slowness of the Catholic Church in Ireland in addressing child safeguarding concerns,” the archbishop said.

Mrs Collins is among four women, US cardinal Sean O’Malley, two Jesuit priests and an Italian lawyer who are the first eight members of the body.

Cardinal O’Malley said the commission would take a pastoral approach to helping victims and preventing abuse, given that much of the Vatican’s attention thus far had been on implementing policies and legal procedures for investigating allegations of abuse and punishing guilty priests.

Mrs Collins said her top priority is “a strong worldwide child protection policy which would include sanctions for any member of the church in a position of authority who ignored these rules.”

She added that too many bishops who have protected abusive priests have been allowed to remain in place undisciplined.

Dubliner Mrs Collins has previously spoken of the importance of her faith: “I have remained a Catholic but not without much difficulty and struggle…There have been periods when practicing my faith has been impossible.

“I have tried to separate the institution of the Church from the Faith. My belief in God has never wavered,” Mrs Collins said.

Rome-based Jesuit Frs Hans Zollner and Humberto Yanez were also appointed to the commission as well as Hanna Suchocka, a former professor of law, who served as prime minister of Poland, 1992-93, and Polish ambassador to the Vatican, 2001-13; Catherine Bonnet, a French child psychiatrist specialising in helping victims of incest; and Baroness Sheila Hollins, a mental health specialist who has focused her research on people with learning disabilities.

The eighth member of the commission is Claudio Papale, an Italian who holds degrees in both civil and canon law and works in disciplinary section of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The office is responsible for investigating allegations against priests.