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Nearly four months after announcing the establishment of a new Vatican commission to deal more effectively with clergy sex abuse of minors, Pope Francis has named five laypersons — four of them women — to its initial eight-member leadership team.
Marie Collins, an Irish sex-abuse survivor and founder of the One in Four victims support group, and Baroness Sheila Hollins, a British psychiatrist and life peer, are among those who were appointed today to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
Poland’s former Prime Minister and Ambassador to the Holy See, Hanna Suchocka, and French child psychologist, Dr Catherine Bonnet, are the other two women on the commission.
The fifth layperson is Claudio Papale, an Italian civil and canon lawyer who works at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Pope Francis today also appointed Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston and two Jesuit priests from the Gregorian University — Humberto Miguel Yáñez from Argentina and Hans Zollner from Germany — to complete the eight-member commission. A Vatican communiqué said more members “from various geographical areas of the world” would eventually be added.
Francis announced on 5 December that he had accepted a request from his eight-member Council of Cardinals (C8) to set up the new child protection commission. Cardinal O’Malley is a member of the C8 advisory council and has a reputation as one of the bishops most credible in dealing with clergy sex abuse of minors.
Fr Zollner is a psychologist and head of the Gregorian-based “Centre for Child Protection”, a data base and e-learning curriculum set up in early 2012 with strong financial backing from the Archdiocese of Munich. The archdiocesan ordinary, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, also a member of the C8 advisory council, is believed to be the one that persuaded Pope Francis to establish the new commission for child protection. Fr Yáñez, meanwhile, is an Argentinian Jesuit like Francis and directs the Gregorian University’s department of moral theology.
Vatican spokesman, Fr Federico Lombardi SJ, said the Jesuit Pope was “continuing the work undertaken by his predecessors”, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and had set up the new commission on the “advice of a number of Cardinals, other members of the College of Bishops, and experts in the field”. He said the new group was “called to work expeditiously” to help draw up the commission’s statutes, mapping out its “final structure… the scope of its responsibilities… (and) the names of additional candidates”. The spokesman said the commission would take “a multi-pronged approach”, including education, disciplining offenders; civil and canonical duties and responsibilities; and the development of best practices.