Pope reappoints O’Malley to head further work of safeguarding commission


Vatican City, Feb 17, 2018 / 05:10 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday the Vatican announced that Pope Francis has reconfirmed Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston as head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, also reconfirming seven members and appointing nine new.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM), is an advisory body to the Pope on the issue of safeguarding minors and vulnerable adults from sexual abuse. Its first 3-year mandate concluded in December 2017 and was awaiting the Pope’s confirmation of new and old members.

The new members are Benyam Dawit Mezmur from Ethiopia; Sr. Arina Gonsalves, RJM from India; Neville Owen from Australia; Sinalelea Fe’ao from Tonga; Myriam Wijlens from the Netherlands; Ernesto Caffo from Italy; Sr. Jane Bertelsen, FMDM from the U.K.; Teresa Kettelkamp from the U.S.; and Nelson Giovanelli Rosendo Dos Santos from Brazil.

The returning commission members are Dr. Gabriel Dy-Liacco from the Philippines; Bishop Luis Manuel Alí Herrera from Colombia; Fr. Hans Zollner, SJ from Germany; Hannah Suchocka from Poland; Sr. Kayula Lesa, RSC from Zambia; Sr. Hermenegild Makoro, CPS from South Africa; and Mons. Robert Oliver from the U.S.

In a statement released Feb. 17, O’Malley said that Pope Francis “has given much prayerful consideration in nominating these members. The newly appointed members will add to the commission’s global perspective in the protection of minors and vulnerable adults.”

In his reconfirmation of previous members, the Pope has also “ensured continuity in the work of our Commission, which is to assist local churches throughout the world in their efforts to safeguard all children, young people, and vulnerable adults from harm,” O’Malley said.

According to a press release, the 16 members are made up of eight women and eight men spanning multiple disciples of international expertise in the field of safeguarding children and vulnerable adults from the crime of sexual abuse.

“Representatives from several new countries will now offer their insights and experience to the Commission, reflecting the global reach of the Church and the challenge of creating safeguarding structures in diverse cultural contexts,” the release stated.

The members of the commission include both victims of clerical sexual abuse and parents of victims. The commission has stated that it will continue to uphold its practice of defending each person’s right to choose whether or not to disclose their experiences of abuse publicly.

“The members appointed today have chosen to not do so publicly, but solely within the Commission. The PCPM firmly believes that their privacy in this matter is to be respected,” they stated.

It was announced that the commission’s new term, as decided at their last plenary meeting in September 2017, would begin with listening to and learning from people who have experienced abuse, their family members and others who support them.

They also affirmed that the “victim/survivor first” approach will continue “to be central” to their policies and educational programs.

“The PCPM wishes to hear the voices of victims/survivors directly, in order that the advice offered to the Holy Father be truly imbued with their insights and experiences,” the release stated.

The first plenary meeting of the new Commission will be held in April and will begin with a private meeting with people who have experienced abuse. They will discuss proposals of ways to continue to foster an on-going dialogue with victims and survivors around the world.

They announced that discussions have also already been underway to create an “International Survivor Advisory Panel” (ISAP), building off the experience of the Survivor Advisory Panel of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission in England and Wales.

The working group to research and develop a proposal for the ISAP has been led by Baroness Hollins, a founding member of the commission, who will lead a presentation at the April plenary session.

Goals for the panel include studying prevention from a survivor’s perspective and being proactive in raising awareness for the need for healing and care for everyone who has suffered abuse.

According to their statement, over the last four years the commission has worked with almost 200 dioceses and religious communities around the world “to raise awareness and educate people on the need for safeguarding in our homes, parishes, schools, hospitals, and other institutions.”

“The members would like to thank all those who have embraced this call and to thank the Holy See for supporting and encouraging these efforts,” it concluded.


Pope says he prays for those who call him a heretic


Vatican City, Feb 15, 2018 / 12:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis told Jesuits in Chile last month that he’s willing to have discussions with people who disagree with him, but that when people just shout ‘heretic’, he prays for them instead.

“When I perceive resistance, I try to dialogue, when dialogue is possible; but some resistance comes from people who believe they have the true doctrine and they accuse you of being a heretic.”

“When in these people, for what they say or write, I do not find spiritual goodness, I simply pray for them. I feel sorry, but I do not dwell on this feeling…” the Pope said in a conversation with Jesuits in Chile, published in the Jesuit journal La Civilta’ Cattolica Feb. 15.

Francis’ comment was part of a Jan. 16 conversation with around 90 Jesuits in Chile. The private encounter took place on the first full day of his apostolic visit to Chile and Peru Jan. 15-21.

In the meeting Francis answered a question about what resistance he’s encountered during his pontificate and how he’s responded to it.

“Faced with difficulty I never say that it is a ‘resistance,’ because it would mean giving up [the process of] discernment,” he said, pointing out that to do so is to dismiss the “shred of truth” that is often at the heart of conflict.

To help with this in discussions, he said he often asks a person, “What do you think?” This helps him to put into context things that at first seem “like resistance, but in reality, are a reaction that arises from a misunderstanding, from the fact that some things must be repeated, explained better...” he said.

The Pope also noted that misunderstandings or conflict are sometimes his own fault, as when he considers something to be obvious, or makes a logical leap without explaining the process well, thinking the other person has understood his reasoning.

“I realize that, if I go back and explain it better, then at that point the other says, ‘Ah, yes, all right…’ In short, it is very helpful to examine well the sense of the conflict,” he stated.

Francis acknowledged that when there is real resistance, he feels sorry, noting that the temptation to resist change is something we’ve all experienced at one point or another.

Nothing new, resistance to the Second Vatican Council is real, he said, trying to “relativize” or “water down the Council.”

He said he’s aware of the “campaigns” against Vatican II, but he does not read the websites “of this so-called ‘resistance.’”

“I know who I am, I know the groups, but I do not read them, simply for my mental health. If there's something very serious, they inform me so that I know it,” he said. “It’s a disappointment but we have to move on.”


Commentary: The Vatican gap between theory and practice


Rome, Italy, Feb 16, 2018 / 04:00 pm (CNA).- Yesterday Pope Francis issued a new letter motu proprio entitled Imparare a congedarsi, or “Learning to take your leave.”

Pope Francis made only some minor adjustments to canon law concerning the retirement of bishops, specifically those serving as papal representatives in diplomatic posts and in Curial offices.

Legally speaking, not much changed. Imparare is a tidying up exercise. All bishops are now asked to submit their resignations at the age of 75, which become effective when they are formally accepted by the pope. Previously, those in certain positions saw their positions lapse de iure upon their reaching a certain age.

While the document is ostensibly about retirement, and going gracefully, in fact it clears the way for Vatican officials to carry on in their posts past the age of 75.

In itself, there is nothing novel about bishops in important or sensitive roles carrying on past the age of retirement. It is common practice that diocesan bishops in major sees have their resignations accepted nunc pro tunc, or “now for later,” effectively keeping them in post indefinitely. Similarly, few Curial cardinals are expected to depart from service promptly on their 75th birthdays. Harmonizing the law, so that it effectively applies to everyone in the same way, is not exactly revolutionary.

What is odd about the motu proprio is that, for a document supposedly about retiring with grace, it spends rather more time talking about those who are staying on. Indeed, under Pope Francis, this exception is becoming the norm.

Despite the Pope’s stated preference for single five-year terms in the Curia, an ever-growing number of key Vatican officials are carrying on well past their terms. Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, who heads the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, has served 11 years in that office, and turns 80 next month. Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, is 77, and Cardinal Ravasi at the Pontifical Council for Culture turned 77 last year.

The progressive Archbishop Piero Marini has been head of the International Eucharistic Congresses for 10 years and turned 76 a few weeks ago. Msgr. Pio Vito Pinto, the erratic Dean of the Roman Rota, is nearly 77. Those who are expected to retire with grace at the end of their terms, like Cardinal Müller, are so exceptional as to be newsworthy.

Given that this is the opposite of what the Pope has called for, the situation is something of a mystery. Imparare a congedarsi is clear that carrying on past an age limit is supposed to be “exceptional.” The Pope wrote that anyone being kept on is not being done a “favor” or being thanked for services rendered. Instead, such individuals are being asked to see important projects to their finish, or bridge a difficult period of transition. In theory, this makes excellent sense, and is the reason many officials of different ranks have previously been kept on past 75.

Yet it’s hard to see this rationale at work in all cases. Msgr. Pinto, for example, has been the subject of considerable criticism for his public outbursts against the four so-called “dubia cardinals” (technically his superiors), and his recent attempts to abolish the right of appellants before the court of the Roman Rota to chose their own lawyer (he wanted to assign lawyers personally from his own list of preferred advocates) ended in a humiliating climb-down after it was pointed out he was violating basic legal freedoms and endangering the Holy See’s concordat with the Italian Republic. Pinto has even had a “pro-dean” installed under him, essentially a successor in waiting, yet he remains in office now in his sixth year.

As with several of the Franciscan reforms of the Curia, the distance between theory and practice is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore, or explain. Despite the clear and praiseworthy possibilities offered in yesterday’s motu proprio, there seems little “exceptional” about some of those being kept in office long past retirement age.

Ed Condon is a canon lawyer working for tribunals in a number of dioceses. On Twitter he is @canonlawyered. His opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Catholic News Agency.