The inaugural meeting of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors took place May 1-3 at Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican.
The purpose of the commission is to make recommendations to the Holy Father regarding the Commission’s functions and to propose additional members from different parts of the world.
In a statement, the commission members began by expressing their “heartfelt solidarity with all victims/survivors of sexual abuse as children and vulnerable adults and to share that, from the very beginning of our work, we have adopted the principle that the best interests of a child or vulnerable adult are primary when any decision is made.”
Noting they were able to share their thoughts, experiences, and aspirations for this Pontifical Commission, members also discussed future cooperation with representatives of the Roman Curia, from the Secretariat of State, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for the Clergy, the Vatican Press Office, and the Vatican Gendarmerie.
Turning to what the commission aims to achieve, the members said that in time, “we will propose initiatives to encourage local responsibility around the world and the mutual sharing of ‘best practices’ for the protection of all minors, including programs for training, education, formation, and responses to abuse.
“We have also shared with Pope Francis how important certain areas are to us in our future work,” the statement continued. “We see ensuring accountability in the Church as especially important, including developing means for effective and transparent protocols and processes.”
Acknowledging its role as “an advisory commission to the Holy Father,” council members noted “the fruit of our work will be communicated to Pope Francis.”
Among topics discussed were “many proposals for ways in which the Commission might collaborate with experts from different areas related to safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.”
Turning to the future, the commission “will propose statutes to the Holy Father to express more precisely the Commission’s nature, structure, activity, and the goals,” the statement said.
It will “not deal with individual cases of abuse” but make “recommendations regarding policies for assuring accountability and best practice.”
“In the statutes, we plan to make specific proposals regarding the importance of emphasizing ways for raising the awareness of all people regarding the tragic consequences of sexual abuse,” the statement added. It also highlighted “the devastating consequences of not listening, not reporting suspicion of abuse, and failing to support victims/survivors and their families.”
“As the Catholic people make our parishes, schools, and institutions safe for all children, we join with people of good will in our endeavor to ensure that children and vulnerable adults are protected from abuse,” the statement said.
The commission members include Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, USA; Catherine Bonnet, France; Marie Collins, Ireland; Sheila Baroness Hollins, United Kingdom; Claudio Papale, Italy; Hanna Suchocka, Poland; Jesuit Humberto Miguel Yáñez, Argentina; and Jesuit Hans Zollner, Germany.
On Zenit’s Web page:
To learn more on Commission members: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-names-members-of-pontifical-commission-for-the-protection-of-minors