Vatican Commission Kickstarts Catholic Church’s Child Protection Program Yearly Report

The Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors met on Oct. 28 to lay down the blueprint for the Catholic Church’s global child protection program annual reports. The move came following the hushed Vatican reprimand involving a resigned high-ranking French clergy, a report by Angelus News revealed.

Transparent, Comprehensive Reporting

Oblate Father Andrew Small, the commission’s secretary, said they also discussed their link with the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith’s disciplinary section, including sustaining more comprehensive reporting and transparency to victims of clergy sexual abuse.

Father Small explained they aim to ensure that victims are fully aware of the results of their cases and there is absolute openness about alleged clergy sexual abuse investigations.

“In our engagement with victim survivors, the acknowledgement of the wrong that was done to them is primary, being listened to, being believed. There’s nothing that takes the place of being believed and heard,” Angelus News quoted Father Small saying. 

The commission secretary added that he understands how painful it is for the victims to ‘see the wrongdoer continue to flourish at times or to appear without sanction.’ Small said such knowledge makes it understandable for the victims to be upset or confused, especially when Church authorities keep them in the dark about the progress of their cases.

Clergy Sex Abuse Cases

Recently, news of a prominent former French bishop’s alleged sexual abuse shocked many Catholics worldwide.

A report by Catholic News Agency revealed that the Vatican had silently disciplined former French Bishop Michel Santier, who resigned in 2021 after being accused of spiritual abuse.

Santier publicly claimed he left office due to alleged health issues at least two years before the mandatory retirement age of 75.

However, Bishop Dominique Blanchet issued a press release on Oct. 14 claiming that his predecessor was credibly accused of committing sexual abuse when he was still a priest two decades earlier. Blanchett is the current bishop of the Diocese of Creteil, where Santier served until his resignation on Jan. 2, 2021.

According to Blanchett’s press release, Vatican officials told Santier to devote his life to doing penance and saying prayers back in October last year.

Santier was accused of sexual abuse by two adult males while still a priest in the 1990s. The allegations came to light in December 2019.

Meanwhile, the Vatican Press Office (VPO) confirmed the disciplinary restrictions placed on Nobel Peace Prize laureate and East Timor Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo due to allegations of sexual abuse against minors.

VPO Director Matteo Bruni issued the statement on Sept. 29, the Catholic News Agency said in a separate report.

Bruni disclosed that the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith became aware of the allegations in 2019. He admitted that Belo was under disciplinary restrictions in September of the following year.

“These included limitations to his movements and to the exercise of his ministry, the prohibition of voluntary contact with minors, of interviews and contacts with Timor Leste,” Bruni told reporters.

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Church’s Moves to Better Handle Clergy Sex Abuse Cases

According to Angelus News, Pope Francis linked the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors with the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith when he ordered the reorganization of the Roman Curia. 

Father Small explained that the pope’s decision would allow the commission to “maintain its independence as an advisory body to the pope, with access to the bodies that exercise leadership within the church and with the mandate to oversee the adequacy of the church’s policies and procedures in the area of abuse prevention and safeguarding.”

He added that commission members have already drafted a design that would guide the various bishops’ conferences worldwide in their reporting systems concerning allegations of sexual abuses by clergy members.

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