Pope Francis’ new advisory commission on the protection of minors is expanding its membership to include representatives from around the world to improve sex abuse prevention and to better care for victims.
The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors recently held discussions “focused on the commission’s nature and purpose and on expanding the membership to include people from other geographical areas and other areas of expertise,” Cardinal Sean O’Malley, O.F.M. said in a statement on behalf of the commission at a May 3 press conference at the Holy See Press Office.
Cardinal O’Malley is one of eight members chosen by Pope Francis to serve on the commission, which was established March 22. The group met in late April to discuss the scope of its work. Thus far, no official statutes have been established.
The commission said its conversations included “many proposals for ways in which the commission might collaborate with experts from different areas related to safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.” The cardinal explained that the group hopes to include “more victim-survivors” of sexual abuse, as well as “at least one person from every continent.”
Global representation is particularly important, he explained, “because in some people’s minds, (they say) ‘Oh, this is an American problem,’ (or) ‘This is an Irish problem.’ No: this is a human problem and the Church needs to face it everywhere in the world.”
The Archbishop of Boston said that some people have told him “that there are still many people who don’t see this as a problem of the Universal Church.”
Thus, many of the commission’s recommendations will likely focus on education, “because there is so much ignorance around this topic, so much denial.”
Although the commission is still in its infancy, the commission statement said, “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.”
The group “will not deal with individual cases of abuse” but will act as a general advisory body to Pope Francis. However, the commission does plan “to make specific proposals regarding the tragic consequences of sexual abuse and of the devastating consequences of not listening, not reporting suspicion of abuse, and failing to support victims/survivors and their families.”
The commission meetings this week include an address from Dr. Domenico Giani, commander of the Vatican gendarmerie.
Cardinal O’Malley said that the current eight-member commission wanted to become aware of child protection legislation and programs in the Vatican City State. He added, “We feel that it is important for Vatican City to model the importance and priority of child protection.”