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Marie Collins takes CDF chief to task over treatment of abuse commission

By Sarah Mac Donald - 15 March, 2017

“It appears that for you, the concern that the local bishop might feel disrespected far outweighs any concern about disrespecting the survivor.”

Abuse survivor Marie Collins has written an open letter to the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) warning him that dysfunction can no longer be kept hidden behind institutional closed doors.

The Dubliner, who resigned on Ash Wednesday (1 March)  from the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in protest over resistance to reform from the Curia, poses a series of questions to Cardinal Gerhard Müller.

Her letter is published exclusively by National Catholic Reporter (see https://www.ncronline.org/news/accountability/exclusive-marie-collins-responds-cardinal-mullers-allegations-about-abuse).

In the letter, Marie Collins asks, “If all necessary means have been in place to address the case of a bishop negligent in respect of protection of children from abuse, why then has no bishop been officially, transparently sanctioned or removed for this negligence?”

She continues, “If it is not lack of laws, then is it lack of will? I am sure many survivors, myself included, would be interested, Cardinal, in the answer to this question.”

Referring to the CDF’s refusal to both cooperate with the Commission’s work on the Safeguarding Guidelines and to acknowledge letters sent to the Vatican by abuse survivors, Marie Collins refers back to Cardinal Müller’s assertion, “I know nothing about these two alleged incidents.”

She suggests the Cardinal look at the formal letter of response sent by the CDF to the Abuse Commission on 15 December 2016.

In its very first paragraph, the letter lists the two requests as being in regard to “guidelines” and “sending of acknowledgment letters”.

“In the latter case, the Commission’s recommendation [see its Feb. 8, 2016 press statement] that went to the Holy Father and which he approved was that all Vatican dicasteries would acknowledge directly letters sent to them by survivors.

“When this recommendation was discussed with the official representative of the CDF at a working group meeting in September 2016, he saw no difficulty in it being done. Yet two months later in the formal written response from your Congregation it was refused.”

Cardinal Müller had said the reason given for rejection of the Commission request is respect for subsidiarity.

“This emphasis on subsidiarity shows that within the Church, respect for the hierarchical system and its participants still outweighs respect for the individual human person,” Marie Collins criticises.

She continues, “I was taught to believe that all are equal in the sight of God, but it seems there is a different view in your congregation when it comes to the local bishop and a victim of abuse.

“It appears that for you, the concern that the local bishop might feel disrespected far outweighs any concern about disrespecting the survivor.”

She also questions how many much more fundamental measures in regard to justice for survivors and the prevention of abuse are being hidebound by anachronistic, bureaucratic, internal hierarchical considerations.

Elsewhere in her open letter, Marie Collins writes that she does not know what the motivation is in regard to any difficulties put in the way of the Pontifical Commission.

“All it wishes to do is bring better protection to children and vulnerable adults wherever in the world the Catholic Church is present. If there are problems, nothing is gained by maintaining a pretence that all is well.

“I would ask that instead of falling back into the Church’s default position of denial and obfuscation, when a criticism like mine is raised, the people of the church deserve to be given a proper explanation. We are entitled to transparency, honesty and clarity.

“No longer can dysfunction be kept hidden behind institutional closed doors. This only succeeds as long as those who know the truth are willing to remain silent,” Mrs Collins concludes.

Separately, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors is to hold a global seminar at the Pontifical Gregorian University on safeguarding children.

The event, entitled ‘Safeguarding in Homes and Schools: Learning from Experience Worldwide’, takes place on 23 March and is organised in collaboration with the Centre for Child Protection of the Gregorian University.

It will have a particular focus on Latin America.

Chaired by Cardinal Seán O’Malley, guest speakers from Argentina, Colombia and Mexico will be joined by experts from Australia and Italy to share their experience of promoting a culture of safeguarding in Catholic schools, institutions and communities.

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