A high-profile member of a commission advising Pope Francis on ways to protect minors from sexual abuse by the clergy resigned from the panel on Wednesday, citing what she called “cultural resistance” from the Vatican.
Marie Collins, who was molested by a priest in Ireland when she was 13, expressed frustration over what she called reluctance among the Roman Catholic Church’s hierarchy to implement the commission’s recommendations — even those approved by the pope.
“I feel I have no choice but to resign if I am to retain my integrity,” Ms. Collins said in a statement to National Catholic Reporter. The lack of action, she wrote, “is a reflection of how this whole abuse crisis in the church has been handled: with fine words in public and contrary actions behind closed doors.”
Ms. Collins was one of two victims of clergy sexual abuse appointed by Francis to the commission when it was created in 2014. A year ago, the commission suspended the other victim, Peter Saunders, after he accused the panel of failing to deliver on its promises of reform and accountability, and he has been on a leave of absence since.
In outlining the initiatives proposed by the commission in the past three years, Ms. Collins spoke of “stumbling blocks” and the difficulties it had faced in getting cooperation from various Vatican departments.
A tribunal to hold negligent bishops accountable recommended by the commission and approved by the pope in June 2015 “was never implemented,” she noted. Guidelines issued by the pope last June to discipline bishops who had covered up abuse were supposed to go into effect in September, “but it is impossible to know if it has actually begun,” she wrote.
She also said the commission did not have the proper resources to do its job: In its first year, it did not have an office or a staff.
But the last straw, she said, was that a Vatican department was refusing to cooperate with a recommendation that all correspondence from victims of clerical abuse receive a response.
“I find it impossible to listen to public statements about the deep concern in the church for the care of those whose lives have been blighted by abuse, yet to watch privately as a congregation in the Vatican refuses to even acknowledge their letters!” Ms. Collins said.
“The reluctance of some in the Vatican Curia to implement recommendations or cooperate with the work of a commission when the purpose is to improve the safety of children and vulnerable adults around the world is unacceptable,” she added, referring to the Vatican’s administrative arm.
Commenting on Ms. Collins’s departure on Wednesday, the commission’s president, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, thanked her for “extraordinary contributions.”
The commission said in a statement that Francis had “accepted Ms. Collins’s resignation with deep appreciation for her work on behalf of the victims/survivors of clergy abuse.”
In her statement, Ms. Collins noted her disappointment over the reduction of punishments against abusive priests that Francis had allowed in some cases.
The Associated Press reported last week that Francis had lessened sanctions against a handful of pedophile priests in an effort to apply his vision of a merciful church. But one of those priests, Mauro Inzoli, was later convicted by an Italian criminal court for sex crimes against children as young as 12. He is now facing a second church trial after new evidence emerged against him, according to the report.
In her three years with the commission, Ms. Collins said she never had the opportunity to meet with the pope.
She said she would have asked him to give the commission the power to implement its recommendations, to provide it with more funds and to allow it to recruit outside professionals. Nonetheless, she expressed confidence in Francis’ comprehension of the seriousness of the issue.
“The pope does at heart understand the horror of abuse and the need for those who would hurt minors to be stopped,” she wrote.
Voice of the Faithful, a global movement of Roman Catholics who support victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy, said it was “disheartened” at the resignation of the lone victim from the panel, and urged Francis to remove the Vatican officials who delayed or refused to implement plans to protect minors.
“The church cannot ignore modern-day prophets like Marie and still claim to care about removing clerical sex abusers,” Donna B. Doucette, the executive director of Voice of the Faithful, said in a statement.
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