“Current church laws could hold bishops accountable if they fail to protect children,” Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the archbishop of Boston, has said.
The cardinal, a member of the Vatican’s sexual abuse advisory board, said such laws had not been sufficient to date and new protocols were needed, reported Agenzia Fides.
“Obviously our concern,” the Bostonian Cardinal told reporters Saturday at the Vatican, “is to make sure that there are clear and effective protocols to deal with the situations where superiors of the church have not fulfilled their obligations to protect children.”
He said an “open process” that “would hold people accountable for their responsibility to protect children” is an example of something being worked toward to achieve this.
Another aim of the commission would be determining how to advise bishops’ conferences to improve their own guidelines for dealing with cases of abuse. The Italian bishops’ conference recently said they were not legally obligated to report suspected abuse to police.
The advisory board said in a concluding statement that Church accountability was “especially important” to the members and that, in their founding statutes, they would emphasize the “devastating consequences” for victims when suspected abuse is not reported.
Cardinal Bernard Law, O’Malley’s predecessor in Boston, resigned from his post after a sex abuse scandal was uncovered in 2002. However, Pope John Paul II then appointed Law as archpriest of one of the Vatican’s four major basilicas in Rome.
Last December, Pope Francis announced that this commission would be created and he named its members in March.
An Irish survivor of sexual abuse, Marie Collins, a committee member, said she left the commission’s inaugural meeting feeling “hopeful,” which she attributed to the fact that the issue of accountability had been addressed. She said, “I know there are many survivors around the world who are hoping, and have great expectations of this commission.”
“What I can say so far is you can’t make concrete promises,” Collins added. But, as a survivor, she said she is “hopeful we are going to achieve what is hoped for. It’s very, very important.” (D.C.L.)