Abuse survivor, Marie Collins, and a panel of laity gave their heartfelt plea on Friday for immediate action.
On Friday at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, Ireland, there was a powerful session entitled, “Safeguarding Children and Vulnerable Adults.” Moderating the panel was Baroness Prof. Sheila Hollins, former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
Among the panelists was Marie Collins, a survivor of clerical abuse, and former member of the Pontifical Commission for Protection of Minors. She gave an impassioned plea to the Church, calling on the Church hierarchy to make decisive action.
“All of us, particularly Catholic families, need to raise their voices and call for the Church to protect children,” Collins began her talk. “We must keep children safe.”
Collins then proceeded to layout her own thoughts on what the Church needs to do to address this great crisis in the world.
“First, the strongest possible safeguarding policies, with the strength of Canon Law behind them, should be implemented in every diocese and congregation around the world,” said Collins. She noted that the United States, Ireland and the United Kingdom already have strong policies, but there is room for improvement. Collins believes these policies should be universal and implemented in every diocese in the world.
“Secondly, there need to be robust structures in place to hold accountable those in leadership and not only those in leadership at the Diocesean level, but in the Vatican itself.” Collins continued, “This accountability should have strong sanctions for the guilty, dismissal from their post, removal of titles, and if necessary, removal from the Church and clergy entirely.”
Collins believes that real “zero tolerance,” should entail that any guilty priest should be immediately removed. She further adds that if Canon Law does not provide for this now, that the pope should write it in.
Collins was not alone in her beliefs. Other panelists, including Barbara Thorp, former Head of The Office for Pastoral Support and Child Protection for the Archdiocese of Boston, and Professor Gabriel Dy-Liacco, current member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, echoed her statements.
They all voiced their belief that the hierarchy are not the only ones who should be acting on these issues. The laity are equally responsible and need to be advocates for the abused and help bring healing to this crises.
Seminaries were signaled out as places that need to better form priests, healing past wounds of seminarians and helping them interiorize the Church’s teachings on sexuality. Without this formation and healing, the Church will only continue to perpetuate the abuse.
While “words are sweet,” Prof. Gabriel Dy-Liacco said, “love means deeds.”
The panelists look forward to whatever action the Holy Father will implement in the near future and remain convinced that this issue needs to be at the forefront of the Church’s concern. For any evangelization efforts to be successful, the Church needs to get this in order and stop the cycle of abuse.
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