Marie Collins resigns from Commission for Protection of Minors

Marie Collins - Twitter

Marie Collins - Twitter

Source: Source: Vatican Radio/VIS

The Vatican announced on Wednesday that a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Irish abuse survivor Marie Collins, has resigned from her position. She had been a member of the Commission since it was established by Pope Francis in 2014. In her resignation letter to the Pope, she cited frustration at the lack of cooperation with the Commission by other offices of the Roman Curia. But she stressed that she trusts her colleagues: "I know the Commission will succeed and maybe anyone who has been resisting will open their minds and realise that we're all working for the same thing."

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors [PCPM] issued the following statement after the resignation of Mrs Collins.

On Monday, February 13, 2017, Mrs Marie Collins, a Member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors [PCPM] advised Cardinal Sean O'Malley, President of the PCPM, of her intent to resign from the Commission effective March 1, 2017.

Mrs Collins, a Member of the Pontifical Commission since its inception in 2014 is a survivor of clerical abuse, and consistently and tirelessly championed for the voices of the victims/survivors to be heard, and for the healing of victims/survivors to be a priority of the Church. In discussing with the Cardinal, and in her resignation letter to the Holy Father, Mrs. Collins cited her frustration at the lack of cooperation with the Commission by other offices in the Roman Curia.

Mrs Collins accepted an invitation from Cardinal O'Malley to continue to work with the Commission in an educational role in recognition of her exceptional teaching skills and impact of her testimony as a survivor.

The Holy Father accepted Mrs Collins resignation with deep appreciation for her work on behalf of the victims/survivors of clergy abuse.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was established by Pope Francis in March of 2014. The Chirograph of His Holiness Pope Francis states specifically: "The Commission's specific task is to propose to me the most opportune initiatives for protecting minors and vulnerable adults, in order that we may do everything possible to ensure that crimes such as those which have occurred are no longer repeated in the Church. The Commission is to promote local responsibility in the particular Churches, uniting their efforts to those of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the protection of all children and vulnerable adults."

Cardinal O'Malley, OFM Cap issued the following statement:

"On behalf of the Members of the Commission I have expressed to Marie Collins our most sincere thanks for the extraordinary contributions she has made as a founding member of the Commission. We will certainly listen carefully to all that Marie wishes to share with us about her concerns and we will greatly miss her important contributions as a member of the Commission. As the Commission gathers for the plenary meeting next month we will have an opportunity to discuss these matters. With the members of the Commission I am deeply grateful for Marie's willingness to continue to work with us in the education of church leaders, including the upcoming programs for new bishops and for the dicasteries of the Holy See. Our prayers will remain with Marie and with all victims and survivors of sexual abuse."

In an interview with Philippa Hitchen for Vatican Radio, Marie Collins spoke about her decision and about her hopes for the future work of the Commission.

Marie said there have been struggles in the past but the Commission worked to overcome them. Recently, she said, there was "a specific refusal from a department of the Vatican that I felt was just unacceptable". She added that "if there are men still in positions in the Vatican who are not willing to work and cooperate with this Commission", then as a survivor she felt she had to leave.

Marie insists that she still supports her colleagues who are "working very sincerely and very hard", as well as Pope Francis who "has been behind the Commission all the way".

Asked about the specific difficulty which motivated her decision, she said it was in regard to developing safeguarding policies which bishops conferences around the world can use as a template for drawing up their own policy documents. Marie said a way needs to be found to show those who are resisting "that the Commission is not coming in from the outside to interfere, or to take over their work". The Commission's objective, "is to work together and go forward, using resources of both groups to move forward for the protection of children."

Marie said she finds it "heartbreaking" that some people "find that difficult, in 2017, when we know the history that is there, and we don't want to repeat it."

But she stressed that she trusts her colleagues: "I know the Commission will succeed and maybe anyone who has been resisting will open their minds and realise that we're all working for the same thing."

Survivors' voices must continue to be heard, Marie believes, whether by adding new members to the Commission or by inviting others to talk to the group. She noted that last year she worked on training sessions with bishops, and with some Curia departments. She hopes to continue with this work because it is very important that men who are "open to learning and open to trying to understand more about abuse" are able to hear and to share the experience of a survivor.