On Saturday, Pope Francis announced the newest member of the special commission he has put together to confront the Catholic Church's chronic sexual abuse problems. Marie Collins, who was molested at age 13 by a priest in her native Ireland in the 1960's, has gone on to become a prominent anti-abuse activist, and is a founding trustee of the Irish abuse victims support group, One in Four.
The special committee consists of eight international members, four men and four women. The Pope assembled the group in December 2013, around the time the United Nations accused the Church of putting their public image before the care of the minors and implementing a "code of silence" when it came to disciplining bishops who covered-up for abusers in the Church. The issue has caused countless legal issues for the Vatican, costing it billions of dollars in settlements — and has stained its reputation as well. Some powerful members have deemed this the "shame of the Church," and have made it their mission to confront the issue.
"Pope Francis has made it clear that the church must uphold the protection of minors amongst her highest priorities," Vatican spokesperson Frederico Lombardi said in a statement.
Collins told the AP that the Vatican must punish bishops who orchestrated cover-ups of priests who raped children.
"There's no point in my mind of having gold-plated child-protection programs in place if there's no sanction for a bishop who decides to ignore them. The reason everyone is so angry is not because they have abusers in their ranks. Abusers are in every rank of society. It's because of the systemic cover-up."
The names enlisted in the committee are all high-profile, emphasizing the importance of this endeavor, and how serious the Pope is now taking the issue. Along with Collins, there is Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, former Polish prime minister Hanna Suchocka, and a noted psychiatrist and member of the UK House of Lords, Baroness Sheila Holllins.
The commission was created to advise the church on the best policies to protect children, teach Church personnel how to identify an abuser, and keep abusers out of the clergy. There are still some kinks to work out, however — let us all hope that justice is served for those minors already affected.