Papal sex abuse commission seeks new ways to hear from survivors

Hanna Suchocka and Dr. Catherine Bonnet, both members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, talk during a seminar on safeguarding children at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome on March 23. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) Hanna Suchocka and Dr. Catherine Bonnet, both members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, talk during a seminar on safeguarding children at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome on March 23. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Following the resignation of a prominent member and abuse survivor, a pontifical commission charged with addressing issues related to clergy sex abuse vowed to continue to seek input from victims and survivors.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors said the resignation of Marie Collins was a "central topic" of its March 24-26 plenary assembly, and it "expressed strong support for her continuing work" to promote healing for abuse victims and ensuring best practices for prevention.

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"Commission members have unanimously agreed to find new ways to ensure its work is shaped and informed with and by victims/survivors. Several ideas that have been successfully implemented elsewhere are being carefully considered for recommendation to the Holy Father," the commission said in a March 26 statement published by the Vatican.

Among the main concerns addressed by the commission was outreach out to victims, an issue first raised by Collins shortly after she resigned from her position.

In an editorial published online on March 1 by National Catholic Reporter, Collins said an unnamed dicastery not only refused to respond to letters from victims, it also refused to cooperate on the commission's safeguarding guidelines.

In its statement, the commission emphasized Pope Francis' letter to the presidents of the bishops' conferences and superiors of institutes of consecrated life and societies of apostolic life, in which he called for their close and complete cooperation with the Commission for the Protection of Minors.

"The work I have entrusted to them includes providing assistance to you and your conferences through an exchange of best practices and through programs of education, training and developing adequate responses to sexual abuse," the pope wrote on Feb. 2, 2015.

Commission members spoke again of their willingness to work together with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith communicating a "guidelines template" to episcopal conferences and religious congregations, both directly and through the commission website, the statement said.

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