Pope Francis will establish a special commission to help protect children from sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, the archbishop of Boston announced on Thursday. The move is the pope’s first major initiative to address the abuse of children.
“The commission will be able to advise the Holy Father about the protection of children and pastoral care of victims of abuse,” the archbishop, Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, told reporters.
The move is the pope’s first major initiative to address the abuse of children, an issue that has threatened to undermine the credibility of the church as the Vatican faces accusations that it has not done enough either to protect children or redress the grievances of abuse sufferers.
Cases of abuse by clergy have forced the church to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation worldwide, bankrupting a string of dioceses in the United States.
The precise mission and membership of the committee has not yet been decided, O’Malley said, but its role is likely to involve issuing guidelines for child protection, improving the screening of priests, examining ways to help victims and coordinating cooperation with the authorities in abuse cases.
The Vatican was criticised earlier this week for refusing to share the details of its internal investigations into abuse cases, and some have faulted the pope for not addressing the scandal sooner.
O’Malley pioneered a pro-active response to the issue by publishing an online database of Boston clergy accused of involvement with the sexual abuse of minors in 2011.
The proposal of a child protection committee was first discussed on Wednesday and Francis immediately approved the suggestion when told of it on Thursday, O’Malley said.
His announcement came on the third and final day of a series of closed-door meetings between Pope Francis and a special commission of eight cardinals who are discussing how to transform the Vatican’s troubled administration.
The group of cardinals, named a month after the pope’s election, aims to push through reforms and tackle persistent scandals like child sex abuse and corruption. It will next meet from February 17-19, O’Malley said.
The Holy See will be questioned in January by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child on its response to the abuse crisis in relation to the 1990 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, of which the Vatican is a signatory.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2013-12-05