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Accountability and transparency

· The work of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors ·

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, established by Pope Francis on 22 March of this year, will not deal with individual cases of abuse. However, it will make recommendations regarding policies for assuring accountability and best practice, including specific proposals regarding the importance of emphasizing ways for raising the awareness of all people regarding the tragic consequences of such detestable behaviour.

The clarification came at the end of the first meeting of the Commission, which began on Thursday, 1 May, at the Vatican, and concluded on 3 May, with a briefing with journalists in the Holy See Press Office. Cardinal Séan Patrick O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, the only cardinal appointed to the Commission by the Holy Father, offered a summary on the Commission’s meetings. He indicated that directives within statutes include suggestions for increasing awareness among individuals not only “regarding the tragic consequences of sexual abuse” but also of the devastating consequences of “not listening, not reporting suspicion of abuse, and failing to support victims and their families”.

The members of the new commission participated at the morning Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where they met from 1-3 May

Cardinal O’Malley began his presentation by turning his thoughts to the victims. “As we begin our service together, we wish to express our heartfelt solidarity with all victims/survivors of sexual abuse as children and vulnerable adults and to share that, from the very beginning of our work, we have adopted the principle that the best interests of a child or vulnerable adult are primary when any decision is made”.

Summarizing the contents of the Commission’s first meetings together, the Cardinal explained that “each of us have been able to share our thoughts, experiences, and our aspirations for this Pontifical Commission. Responding to our Holy Father’s requests, these discussions focused on the Commission’s nature and purpose and on expanding the membership to include people from other geographical areas and other areas of expertise”.

“Many proposals for ways in which the Commission might collaborate with experts from different areas related to safeguarding children and vulnerable adults” were then examined. As Cardinal O’Malley explained further: “We also met with some people from the Roman Curia regarding areas for future cooperation, including representatives from the Secretariat of State, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for the Clergy, the Vatican Press Office, and the Vatican Gendarmerie”.

As an advisory commission to the Holy Father, the Commission’s first task will be to communicate the fruit of their work to Pope Francis. In time, Cardinal O’Malley explained, the Commission will propose “to encourage local responsibility around the world and the mutual sharing of ‘best practices’ for the protection of all minors, including programs for training, education, formation, and responses to abuse”.

During their meeting with Pope Francis on Friday, 2 May, they shared how important certain areas are to use in their work. “We see ensuring accountability in the Church as especially important, including developing means for effective and transparent protocols and processes”. The Cardinal anticipates that Statutes will be proposed to the Holy Father “to express more precisely the Commission’s nature, structure, activity, and its goals. The Archbishop of Boston concluded the briefing requesting the prayers “of all who wish to support the work of the Commission”; he asked Catholics in particular to commit themselves to making “our parishes, schools, and institutions safe for all children”, adding: “we join with people of good will in our endeavour to ensure that children and vulnerable adults are protected from abuse”.

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Sept. 25, 2018

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