• Sun, Mar 23 - 3:06 pm ET

Pope Francis Adds Rape Survivor To Sex Abuse Commission And We’re Finally Seeing Some Real Change

Pope Francis Meets Relatives of the Mafia's VictimsThe Vatican recently announced that well-known Irish activist Marie Collins has been added to the new sex abuse commission charged with advising the church on ways to confront and put and end to the sexual abuse of children by church officials. The commission includes seven other members, but Collins will be the only survivor of sexual abuse involved. While I think the commission might be more effective if it included more actual survivors, this is definitely a step in the right direction. According to TheJournal.ie:

“A founder trustee of the Marie Collins Foundation and has campaigned for the protection of children and justice for survivors of clerical sexual abuse. She was a founding member of the Irish depression support group Aware, and founding trustee of the support group for abuse survivors, One in Four (Ireland).”

Collins, now 67, was raped by a priest at age 13 and for decades her abuse was brushed under the table by church officials. Collins was finally able to bring her abuser to justice in 1997. Her appointment to the commission, whose official title is the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, was a complete surprise to her when the Vatican first approached her. According to an interview with The Wall Street Journal:

“it came as quite a surprise…This Pope has been speaking about change but this shows real action. It’s a huge step forward.”

I couldn’t agree more with Collins on this point. It’s one thing to make broad statements about change, but quite another to actually enact change. Former Popes have paid lip service to the concept, but until now little has been done to actually fix anything. So far the commission is made up of four women and four men, and includes both people affiliated with the church and laypeople. The members are:

Dr. Catherine Bonnet (France)
Activist Marie Collins (Ireland)
Professor the Baroness Sheila Hollins (United Kingdom)
Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, OFM Cap (US)
Professor Claudio Papale (Italy)
Her Excellency Hanna Suchocka (Poland)
Reverend Humberto Miguel Yañez, SJ (Argentina)
Reverend Hans Zollner, SJ (Germany)

According to a statement given by the Vatican:

“…the Church has a critical role to play in this field, and looking to the future without forgetting the past. The Commission will take a “multi-pronged” approach to promoting youth protection.”

The commission’s work will include educating both church officials and laypeople about the exploitation of children. They will also be involved in the “discipline of offenders, civil and canonical duties and responsibilities,” and will work to develop more effective practices in the church as a whole.

I personally no longer consider myself a Catholic, but as a former Catholic (with a mostly Catholic family), I think this is a breath of fresh air. Finally someone is doing something positive to stop the exploitation of children by priests and other church officials. I applaud Pope Francis and the Vatican for finally doing the right thing.

(Photo: Getty Images)

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  • pixie

    Yay Pope Francis. I’m not Catholic, never have been, but I did go to a Catholic high school, so I’m relatively familiar with most of the teachings. I knew several teachers and chaplains who were all about this kind of thing and from what it sounded like, the local priest also spoke out about things like this. I know they idolized JP II, but he didn’t do much other than pay a lot of lip service. I like that this new pope is actually doing things (and hopefully he won’t be assassinated like another pope has been for making radical changes).

  • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

    yay, Pope!

  • EmmaFromÉire

    As an Irish person i’m particularly delighted by this news. We’ve had some of the worst, most horrifying atrocities committed by the catholic church and Pope Francis hasn’t shied away from the like Pope Benedict did. I’m not Catholic, my denomination is Church of Ireland, but I wholeheartedly like this man. In the few months he’s been pope he’s done more to improve the perception of the church than many of his predecessors.

  • Lackadaisical

    I am not a Roman Catholic, I was brought up an atheist in an Anglican country, but I really have a lot of respect for this pope. So far every statement he has made seems to be about compassion and he seems to be prepared to live up to his message. Giving a voice to a victim who represents the victims is a great step, as is making the commission 50% female, from several countries and not dominated by clergy.

  • Alicia Kiner

    Considering that whole mess was the biggest reason I stopped practicing Catholicism and refused to raise my children in the Catholic church, I’m amazed. This is awesome. I personally cannot attend Catholic churches because I lost the basic trust I needed to be able to confess my sins to someone who is supposed to be a representative of God. This is a very good place to start to fix the damage that’s been done.

  • Tea

    I’m Eastern Orthodox, and I adore Pope Francis for what he’s doing. It really makes me consider jumping ship, between the EO’s issues in Russia, and his overwhelming awesomeness.

  • simoneutecht

    I wax raised Catholic but left the church as soon as I could without my mother harassing me. But now with thus new Pope I am pleasantly surprised and elated, I’m not saying I’m going back yet but it’s a start.

  • Natasha B

    Former Catholic, family is all Catholic, and I have to say, I like this guy. Maybe I’ll go to Easter Mass. Maybe.