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Conscience Magazine

Pope Francis’ anti–sex abuse panel

December 20, 2016

In September, Pope Francis made a major announcement regarding his Commission for the Protection of Minors, giving the members permis­sion to begin educating and training Vatican congrega­tions and newly appointed bishops. The commission, created by Pope Francis in 2013, has created a template of guidelines to be followed by bishops and Catholic associations in order to better prepare church leaders to protect minors from abuse. The announcement also included approval of the proposal for a “day of prayer” for victims of abuse, giving the bishops’ conferences the authority to decide on the date of the memorial, according to Catholic News Service.

These strides towards increasing accountability of bishops and church leaders could imply that the Vatican has made this a top-priority issue; but some are still crit­ical of the effectiveness of the commission. The Los Angeles Times reported that commis­sion member Peter Saunders believes that the group is “writing ineffectual guide­lines instead of exposing predator priests.” A Vatican statement in February stated that Saunders is taking a “leave of absence from his membership to consider how he might best support the commission’s work.” Saun­ders told CNN that he heard the news of his leave after the Vatican’s statement was released.

However, other members of the commission are confi­dent that these are important steps towards ensuring accountability of church leaders. Member Krysten Winter-Green told Catholic News Service that she believes accountability is “critical to the whole picture” of protecting children from abuse. Marie Collins, now the only sitting survivor of clergy abuse on the panel, agrees. Although frustrated with the slow start, Collins told Religion News Service that she is happy with the “positive moves” the commission has made.