Pope launches child protection commission

Thu 05 Dec 2013
By Sarah McAllister

Pope Francis is putting together a panel of experts to advise him about protecting children from sexually abusive priests.

The commission will include lay people and will focus on supporting victims of abuse and advising the Pope on prevention policies and pastoral outreach for victims.

It'll also look at guidelines on codes of conduct and the screening of candidates for the priesthood.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the Archbishop of Boston, made the announcement following a meeting between Francis and eight cardinals who are currently advising him. Boston has seen many cases of abuse come to light over the past decade.

Cardinal O'Malley told reporters the commission would look to help the change focus when it comes to abuse cases. He said: "Up until now there has been so much focus on the judicial parts of this but the pastoral part is very, very important.

"The Holy Father is concerned about that." Pete Saunders is a Christian and heads up the National Association for People Abused in Childhood. He told Premier's Marcus Jones on the News Hour how the Vatican made contact with them before today's announcement.

The announcement comes only days after it was reported the Vatican refused to provide a United Nations rights panel with information on the Church's internal investigations into clerical sex abuse.

It said its policy was to keep such cases confidential. Responding to questions by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Holy See said it would only release information on internal investigations into abuse cases if required to do so by the state to cooperate in legal proceedings.

Meanwhile, not everyone's offering support to today's announcement. The US based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests released a statement saying: "Like his predecessors, the Pope knows precisely what must be done to protect kids and expose the truth. "Like his predecessors, he lacks the strength of character to do it.

"Clergy sex crimes should be dealt with by secular authorities. And more of could be if the Pope punished bishops who conceal these crimes and ordered bishops to publicly disclose their child molesting clerics.

"This simple step would immediately make kids safer. But instead, parents and parishioners are being offered yet another toothless church panel."

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