Cardinal Sean O’Malley, in Boston, has announced the creation of a Vatican commission on protecting children from abuse. This is the first comprehensive effort by the Catholic Church to address the worldwide crisis.
The Archbishop of Boston is one of eight cardinals advising Pope Francis on reforms of how the church is governed. Speaking in Rome O'Malley said the commission would advise the pontiff on the protection of children and the provision of care for victims.
This eight cardinal commission was established after the Catholic Church refused the United Nations' request for information on the sexual abuse of minors by the clergy and members of religious orders.
O’Malley gained an international reputation for cleaning house in American dioceses affected by the sexual abuse. He explained that the commission’s agenda would include scrutinizing the guidelines for protecting children and preventing abuse, which currently differ country to country.
The cardinals will also review the screening of candidates for the priesthood, the training of priests and other church staff who work with children, the extent to which the church is cooperating with civil authorities, and supervision and rehabilitation of abusive priests.
On the matter of the pastoral care of sexual abuse victims O’Malley said “Up till now, there has been so much focus on the judicial parts of this, but the pastoral response is very, very important, and the Holy Father is concerned about that.”
He continued “We feel as though having the advantage of a commission of experts that will be able to study some of these issues and bring concrete recommendations for the Holy Father and for the Holy See will be very important.”
Speaking to the Boston Globe, Thomas Groome, theologian and chairman of the department of religious education and pastoral ministry at Boston College said “It reflects that Pope Francis is determined to get to the root causes of the clergy sexual abuse scandal and to prevent it from ever happening again.”
He continued, “In undertaking reforms, the Holy See would try to be helpful and try to identify best practices.”
Critics of the commission say the Catholic Church lacks the credibility necessary to conduct the analysis and reform needed.
Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston lawyer who has represented abuse victims told the Globe “They need to set up a truly independent panel to investigate the matter.”
The president of Bishop Accountability, Terence McKiernan, believes the commission has bitten off more than it can chew.
According to the National Catholic Register the commission will reconvene from Feb 19-21, 2014, and will be followed the next day with a consistory of the College of Cardinals.