People with the power to stop the widespread sexual abuse of children should know exactly what to do: Stop the crimes. Remove and punish the sick people responsible. Regain trust by putting safeguards in place to make sure it never happens again.
And yet, after decades of publically acknowledged sexual abuse, it seems the Roman Catholic Church is still in no rush to make reforms. Pope Francis has said he is committed to ending this long, terrible chapter in his Church’s history.
For the past few years, many have placed hope in the new pope’s pledge to prevent future cases of abuse, but the latest developments in the Church’s response cast doubt on such promises.
A Different Church ‘Behind Closed Doors’
In 2014, Pope Francis set up Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. The mission was to reform a Church broken by scandal. This panel, which consisted of 17 members, included two victims of clergy abuse who were intended to represent the thousands of other victims around the world. As of March 1, 2017, there are no victims remaining on the panel.
Marie Collins, a well-respected survivor of clergy sexual abuse from Ireland, resigned from the panel because of a promise she made to herself, and to the thousands all over the world. She wrote in her statement:
“When I accepted my appointment to the Commission in 2014, I said publicly that if I found what was happening behind closed doors was in conflict with what was being said to the public I would not remain. This point has come. I feel I have no choice but to resign if I am to retain my integrity.”
Despite talking loudly about reform, Collin’s resignation suggests that little serious change is actually taking place.
Collins laid out some of the issues preventing the panel from reforming the poisonous tolerance of sexual abuse that has plagued the Church for generations. “The most significant problem,” Collins said, “has been reluctance of some members of the Vatican Curia to implement the recommendations of the Commission despite their approval by the pope.”
The Vatican Curia is the name of the small group of officials who govern the affairs of the church. As such, the Vatican, as it is sometimes known, exerts a tremendous amount control over Church operations. The problem, according to Collins, is that they are using their influence in order to block reforms intended to protect minors.
The Church Refuses to Acknowledge Victims
Last Christmas, in his speech to the Curia, Pope Francis laid out reforms the Church needed to make. Some of these reforms, like the Safeguarding Regulations that Collins and the Commission worked on, addressed the epidemic of sexual abuse in the Church.
But are these reforms actually happening? One of the simplest changes proposed was that the Vatican ensured all correspondence from survivors of sexual abuse received a response. First of all – it is shocking that the Vatican was not responding to abuse victims in the first place. Why would they not be doing everything in their power to help these people and their families?
And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, there are departments within the Vatican who still refuse to go along with these simple guidelines. This attempt to silence the victims was among the last straws for Collins. She wrote:
“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!”
What is it going to take for the Church to change? Expressing her frustration, Collins summed up her confusion at the Church’s lack of action, lamenting that “it is devastating in 2017 to see that these men still can put other concerns before the safety of children and vulnerable adults.”
Trading Tradition for Common Sense
There is no excuse for any institution to be more committed to their reputation than the well-being of its members, especially when children are involved. Be it USA Gymnastics, a football team or a religious organization, deceiving the public to protect criminals is totally unacceptable.
Yet, unfortunately, this is exactly what is happening. High-powered individuals within the church use their influence to cover up corruption. Even the pope seems powerless to make the changes necessary to support victims and their families.
Because the Church is unwilling to advocate for victims of sexual abuse – or even answer their letters – it is vital for those with information to come forward. For victims who were abused as children, it is the only path towards securing any measure of justice for the unforgivable torture they continue to suffer.
Bringing wrongdoing to light protects a child instead of the criminal – it is the only path that makes sense.
Positive change comes when people take a stand. Learn how at www.thathappenedtome.com.