Abuse Survivor Quits Pope’s Panel Over Vatican Stonewall

Member of the anti-pedophilia Pontifical commission, Marie Collins attends a press conference on May 3, 2014 at the Vatican. (Photo credit: TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)

Member of the anti-pedophilia Pontifical commission, Marie Collins attends a press conference on May 3, 2014 at the Vatican. (Photo credit: TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Frustrated by what she described as Vatican stonewalling, an Irish woman who was sexually abused by clergy quit her post Wednesday on a pontifical panel advising Pope Francis about how to protect minors from such abuse.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors said Marie Collins quit out of “frustration” at an alleged lack of cooperation from other Vatican offices, known as the Curia. Her departure delivered a fresh credibility blow to the Vatican’s insistence that it is working to ensure that no more children are abused by predator priests.

Collins, in a statement carried by the National Catholic Reporter, was damning in her criticism. She decried “cultural resistance” at the Vatican that she said included some officials refusing the pope’s instructions to reply to all correspondence from survivors or victims.

“I find it impossible to listen to public statements about the deep concern in the church for the care of those who lives have been blighted by abuse, yet to watch privately as a congregation (office) in the Vatican refuses to even acknowledge these letters!” Collins said in her statement.

“The reluctance of some in the Vatican Curia to implement recommendations or cooperate with the work of a commission when the purpose is to improve the safety of children and vulnerable adults around the world is unacceptable,” she added.

Pope Francis set up the commission three years ago, saying its job was to “propose to me the most opportune initiatives for protecting minors and vulnerable adults, in order that we may do everything possible to ensure that crimes such as those which have occurred are no longer repeated in the church.”

A systematic cover-up by bishops and other hierarchy in many dioceses around the world over decades compounded the crimes of pedophile priests who raped children and committed other sexual abuse.

In explaining her reasons for leaving the panel, Collins wondered if the continuing reluctance to address the problem is “driven by internal politics, fear of change, clericalism which instills a belief that ‘they know best’ or a closed mindset which sees abuse as an inconvenience or a clinging to old institutional attitudes?”

Collins said she didn’t know the answer, “but it is devastating in 2017 to see that these men still can put other concerns before the safety of children and vulnerable adults.”

She added, “I have come to the point where I can no longer be sustained by hope.”

The commission’s statement said Pope Francis “accepted Mrs. Collins’ resignation with deep appreciation for her work on behalf of the victims/survivors of clergy abuse.”

It noted that she accepted an invitation from the panel’s president, Boston Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, to help the commission through her “exceptional teaching skills and impact of her testimony as a survivor.”

O’Malley in a statement issued by the Vatican said, “We will greatly miss her important contributions” as a commissioner member.

Boston is one of the more prominent dioceses where hierarchy tried to hide clergy abuse by shuttling pedophile priests from parish to parish.

Collins didn’t immediately respond to a phone request for comment.

Her litany of complaints included the failure of the Vatican to put into place a tribunal which could hold bishops accountable for negligence in handling sex abuse within their dioceses, a commission recommendation that was approved by Pope Francis in 2015.

Collins expressed disappointment that the pontiff has in some cases reduced sanctions for convicted perpetrators of child sex abuse. Still, she said, “I believe the pope does at heart understand the horror of abuse and the need for those who hurt minors to be stopped.”

Collins noted she never had the opportunity to sit down with the pope to talk with him during her three years on the commission.