by Libbie Steiner
The Vatican has released the names of eight people appointed to the newly created Commission for the Protection of Minors. The members of the Commission include many laypeople and women from different professions and backgrounds, representing a notable departure from the largely clerical makeup of many other Vatican advising bodies. The aim of the new Commission will be first to address the remaining problems in the Church concerning child sexual abuse by priests and then to expand that role to address any problem of child welfare in the wider world.
The Commission for the Protection of Minors is expected to play a significant role in advising Pope Francis as well as other Vatican Commissions and Congregations on any issues surrounding child sexual abuse within the Church and the protection of children across the world. Many countries have just begun to enact policies of child protection, and the Church in establishing this new Commission is trying to tell the world that it cares about child welfare and will serve an educative function for the rest of the world. Monsignor Stephen Rossetti, a psychiatrist with expertise in the relationship between psychological and spiritual health in the priesthood, says that he hopes the role of the Commission will grow wider quickly: “I believe that the Church… needs to be the vocal voice of the children and the protection of children. Jesus is very clear about that: ‘Let the children come unto me.’ The Kingdom belongs to the children.”
The makeup of the Commission has won high praise from many, both within and outside the Church, in recent weeks. Half of the group of advisers are women, reflecting tangibly the Holy Father’s commitment to giving women a greater role in Church advisement and governance. One woman named the to the body, Marie Collins, is a victim of child sexual abuse herself and currently an outspoken child advocate. The appointment of a victim to this Commission marks a milestone in Church advocacy for victims of abuse and speaks volumes about the Holy Father’s dedication to the cause of child protection. Another notable selection is the appointment of Boston’s Cardinal Archbishop Sean O’Malley. He is the only American on the Commission and has been a strong proponent of the rights and welfare of children in the United States for many years. The Commission will be made of a very diverse group of both men and women, laity and clergy, in order to gain many different perspectives on child protection.
The structure and specific agenda of the Commission for the Protection of Minors has not been officially set. Pope Francis has set up this Commission but left most decisions on how and for what purpose the Commission will function largely up to the members themselves. In this way, the people on the body will be able to decide the best way to have the Commission function in the most effective and helpful manner. The Holy Father has shown great commitment to the welfare of children by creating this new Commission even in this time of financial trouble and streamlining in the Vatican.