Commission begins planning global report on child protection efforts – Catholic News Service | Wonder Mind Kids

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors met with a renewed membership in the Vatican in late October and laid the groundwork for the preparation of an annual report on the Catholic Church’s efforts to protect children worldwide.

Oblate Father Andrew Small, secretary of the commission, told reporters on October 28 that members were also considering the commission’s new relationship with the Disciplinary Department of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith and continued their efforts to provide greater transparency and more comprehensive reporting to victims promote outcome of their cases.

“In our dealings with the survivors of the victims, first and foremost, we recognize the wrongs done to them, we listen to them and believe them,” said Father Small. “There is nothing that replaces the place to be believed and heard.”

But, he said, “It’s also very painful to see how the wrongdoer sometimes continues to thrive or emerges without sanction,” so victims are understandably confused or upset when they’re not informed of church action against an accused offender.

Because the commission is not involved in individual investigations and disciplinary proceedings, Father Small said he could not comment on the case of Bishop Michel Santier of Creteil, France. When the Vatican announced the bishop’s resignation in 2021, the bishop had stated this for health reasons. No one publicly contradicted him until mid-October, when the diocese of Creteil confirmed he had been credibly accused of sexual misconduct and disciplined by the Vatican.

The Vatican has yet to find a way to be more open while respecting local laws that protect the reputation of someone who has not committed a civil offense but may have broken canon law, Father Small said.

If the church can’t figure that out, he said, not only will it be bad for the institutional church, “but it will also be continually painful for the victims who are the source and culmination of the commission’s focus.”

When Pope Francis reorganized the Roman Curia, he linked the commission to the disciplinary department of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith. Father Small wrote in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano that the move ensures that the commission “retains its independence as the Pope’s consultative body, with access to the bodies that exercise leadership within the Church and mandated to oversee the.” Adequacy of Church abuse prevention and protection policies and procedures.”

Father Small wrote that the Commission “continues to be governed by a President of Delegates who is appointed by the Pope and reports directly to the Pope. And decisions about the staff, the members of the commission and the proposals they have worked out remain independent of the dicastery. Pope Francis has made it very clear that the independent voices of the members of the Commission and those it serves should not be compromised.”

US Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston has been President of the Commission since its creation in 2014.

During the October 27-29 meeting of the commission, she also announced the creation of a fund to finance the establishment of appropriate centers where persons who have experienced abuse and their family members find acceptance and a careful hearing and are accompanied may in a process of healing and justice as stated in the motu proprio ‘Vos Estis Lux Mundi’.”

Father Small told reporters that he believes 70 to 80 of the 114 bishops’ conferences in the world do not have the stable, publicly available reporting mechanisms called for in Vos Estis, mainly because they do not have the resources. But with significant funding from the Italian Bishops’ Conference and input from others, these listening and reporting posts are being established.

As for the annual report on the church’s global child protection efforts, a report the pope had the commission prepare in April, Father Small said commission members had outlined a design for the report.

The first section, he said, would summarize reports the bishops give to the commission as they make their “ad limina” visits to the Vatican regarding their policies and implementation of Vos Estis.

For the second segment, commission members will split into teams to study the Church in specific geographic areas, with an emphasis on providing a broader view of child protection efforts in Africa, Asia and Oceania, Europe and the United States to give to America.

A third section looks at how the departments of the Roman Curia integrate protection into their activities; for example, how the Dicastery of Ministers encourages awareness-raising in seminars, he said.

The final section addresses broader church efforts to protect children around the world, such as rescuing child soldiers, protecting migrant and refugee children, and ensuring their safety in orphanages and foster homes.

While Father Small said the commission should have something to give the pope in 2023, he doesn’t expect to collect enough “actionable data” to begin producing a full annual report by 2024.

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