Abuse survivor hopes 2016 sees results from Vatican safeguarding body

Abuse survivor hopes 2016 sees results from Vatican safeguarding body

Posted by Colm, With 1 Comments, Category: Church News, Church Reform, Latest News,
Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 17.35.50Irish clerical abuse survivor Marie Collins has said she hopes 2016 will see results from the work of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, despite the "frustratingly slow" pace of the reforms being developed by it.Speaking to NCR in a personal capacity, Collins, a member of the commission, admitted that she has found Vatican bureaucracy "very difficult."

The safeguarding body, which is starting its third year of work, is headed up by Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley and holds its next plenary meeting at the beginning of February.

"We do work in our working groups in between these big plenary meetings. A lot of it is done electronically. We're working all the time. It is busy and quite stressful," said Collins.

Collins, who brought the priest who abused her as a sick child in a Dublin hospital in the 1960s to justice in 1997, warned that "there is still resistance" within the church to safeguarding protocols and that is why the commission's work is "essential."

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In some countries, there is still an attitude that clerical child sexual abuse "is not a problem and never will be problem, or that it is a Western problem or a problem within English-speaking countries, or it is being exaggerated, or that it would never happen in our country because of our culture," she said.

"It is very difficult to convince people to put safety measures in place if they think it is never going to happen. They can't see the point," Collins commented.

On the other hand, in countries where the church is tackling the issue, she detects an attitude of " 'When will this be all over and we can stop having to put all of these provisions and policies in place? When can we go back to being the way we were?' You have to try to get through that and say you can never go back to where you were."

Collins believes that it will be survivors of abuse in Africa and Asia who will force the church there to implement change. To date, in countries where abuse has been uncovered and better safeguarding practices have been implemented, it has been a survivor-led movement.

"It is not that the church wanted to listen, it is they were made to listen by survivors and I don't think anything will change in that respect," Collins said.

In places like Ireland, the U.S., U.K. and Germany, "the best thing the church could have done is to have admitted all their mistakes and done some research into why the cover-ups occurred and the systemic response was as it was," Collins said. "I don't think there is still any appetite at all to look at the 'whys.' "

Admitting she may sound "very negative," she added, "You have got to work with the reality. You can't think that because the church has put in place a commission, suddenly everything is going to change. If I felt that this was the case, it would be wonderful, but I don't."

The woman who took on Irish church leadership over its mishandling of clerical sexual abuse admits she would never have envisaged herself on a Vatican commission in the past. It is an indication of just how far the church has moved in recognizing its culpability instead of shunning victims.

"Knowing the attitudes that were being directed towards me and others like me, being told by various people in the diocese how I should basically go away and forget about it, I would obviously never have seen myself in the position I am in now."

She recalls how in the 1990s, when her story of clerical abuse was emerging in the Irish media, a priest in her own Dublin parish told the congregation not to believe a word of it.

"What is important is the work and trying to make children safe in the future. We are there to do a job," she said.

The stress involved in working for the commission "is not much different" from when she was persona non grata within the church. You are still dealing with some people in the church -- I am not saying everybody -- who have those defensive attitudes that survivors exaggerate, are looking for money, or they are trying to destroy the church," Collins said.

In recent months, the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland has been highlighting the obligation that bishops have to priests who are accused of child sexual abuse. At its November annual meeting, the group criticized bishops who too often presume accused priests are guilty and cut them adrift.

But in Collins' opinion, the bishops "have to balance their duties towards their members against the duty towards children or minors in their care."

Referring to the paramountcy principle, which would require people to put the welfare of the child first, she told NCR, "If you always make your decisions on that basis, then you are much clearer about what the priority is: The priority is that children or young people must be kept safe. So it is not a question of balancing equal rights, and I think that is a point that is missed a lot."

However, she also acknowledged, "A perpetrator or somebody who is out of ministry has rights and has to be cared for. But if it comes to a situation where you are thinking about their rights and the rights of children, you have to put the safety of the child first."

Under Pope Francis, she believes, the Catholic church has been a less judgmental church.

"It is wonderful that we have a more humble church, because my problem with the leadership has always been the arrogance and putting themselves up on pedestals."

Despite or perhaps because of everything Collins has been through, her faith remains strong.

"I have always retained my belief in God. The difficulties I have are with the institutional church and whether I really want to be or need to be part of that institution to continue to be a believer. I did have a lot of struggles and there were times when I just wanted to walk away. I still struggle," she acknowledged.

2016 is a milestone year for Collins. It is a year for "taking stock" she told NCR. She and her husband "are 40 years married this year, and I have a landmark birthday" -- she'll be turning 70.

"I have got to see what I want to do with the rest of my days," she said. "I want to enjoy my family. I have my husband, Ray; my brother, Harry; and my son, Peter, and his wife. I spent many years when I was unwell when I was unable to really interact or be part of anything that was going on."

She was referring to the years in the late 1970s to the early '90s, when she was hospitalized with depression and agoraphobia. Throughout that time, her husband "had to be mother and father" to their son and run the house. Only much later did he learn of her abuse by a priest.

"Since I've had therapy, we've really enjoyed our older years," Collins said. "That is why our 40th will be special. It is a time to reassess where my life is."

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 16.38.44 Sarah MacDonald; National Catholic Reporter; 19 January 2016

Sarah Mac Donald is a journalist based in Dublin

1 Comments
  1. Date: January 21, 2016
    Author: Kevin Walters

    Taken from the above article "There is still resistance" within the church to safeguarding protocols and that is why the commission's work is "essential” "It is not that the church wanted to listen, it is they were made to listen by survivors and I don't think anything will change in that respect," Collins said… ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ What a sad state of affairs, nothing changes, nor will it, as at this present moment power lies in the hands of unaccountable men, by refusing to openly acknowledge from the Papacy down the part that they have played in maintaining this Evil “System” (Culture of cover up) they ensure its CONTINUITY. Quotes taken from The ACP Ireland Site We (Priests) were moulded in immaturity also we could have a mature church in which we all could take part as mature adults. But now Pope Francis has brought a refreshing air of realism into the Church, where freedom of speech makes possible an adult debate for the first time in more than half a century. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- If that is the case were the majority of bishops moulded in a similar manner? If so does this mitigate them of the blame for the cover up or the continual denial of a Culture of cover up? We need to form a culture of accountability within the church as at this present moment power lies in the hands of unaccountable men as can be seen in the child abuse cover up and the continual denial of its historic culture within the leadership of the church, it was not meant to be like this, Jesus teaches “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all” A servant must give account to those he serves and this must truly be understood (seen) by all (Believer and non-believer). The Shepherds carry this command from God this authority should protect the Church from the abuse of power that we now witness within the church. But sadly it is said our Shepherds have been moulded in immaturity. Does honest equate to maturity? I think not, the truth that dwells in the heart, is age less, it is about character (Integrity) we are all victims of circumstance to a varying degree and yes many good men were moulded while they were immature. But many young men good and bad have been moulded while they were immature in different cultures under different ideologies, Buddhism, Communism and Nazism etc. Jesus gives us the parable of The Hireling which is apt at this moment in time for the Church. The hireling is contrasted with the shepherd. The protector of a flock, who, though, not a thief, or robber, is guilty of cowardice, and his shameless flight from danger may do as much harm to the flock as the thief or robber. The hireling (Shepherd) hides (Runs away) from the Truth (Jesus Christ) and in doing so perpetuates evil, while the True Shepherds are left defenceless as His precious garment Truth is nowhere to be seen, his only true defence against evil, as an open acknowledgement of this sin (cover up) is not permitted by those proud men who hold high office. And so evil feeds evil and the innocent suffer, duplicitous men proclaiming to wear the mantle of Jesus Christ have betrayed Him they have placed a stain/Scab on the face of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ and been in denial they refuse openly to acknowledge from the Papacy down the part that they have played in maintaining this this Evil “System” (Culture of cover up) and in so doing they ensure its CONTINUITY. Much has been written on this scandal and the conclusion by Western society at large is that the Church has to be monitored and now must give account to civil institutions (The shame of it) for itself, before mankind. Trust has been lost the presumption of innocence generously given by Joe Bloggs to The Clergy in the past no longer holds, as this trust has and is continuingly been undermined by self-justification, stonewalling, denial and above all arrogance driven by Pride, it’s opposite, true Humility before our Father in heaven, is nowhere to be seen. The Inviolate Word of God enacted in proud hearts has produced a clerical system of hypocrisy, rather than look for mercy before God and the church (Laity) and walk in humility, and in so doing teach by example they have exchanged the mantel of Jesus Christ (Truth) for an Image of Worldly Goodness, this Image an image of pride is sustained by a web of lies and intrigue. The clergy, once seen by the average man in the street as good men serving God are now seen by the majority of mankind in the West as supporting a self-serving church of hypocrisy and they are now held in distain and open to justifiable ridicule as an underlying distrust now lies within the heart of mankind for them, as it does of all secret (Unaccountable) societies. Some say it is time to move on “Move on” to where, while carrying the Devil on your back. Only The Truth living in an honest heart can overcome evil “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed” When we are confronted by someone acknowledging their own shortcomings (Sin) in true humility it induces compassion in the recipients/onlookers and this humility forms the basis for TRUST/comradeship/equality as it stirs within our hearts the love of God, a God of mercy as revealed by His only begotten Son Jesus Christ. Will our True Shepherds lead by accepting the collective guilt of this scandal for permitting their consciences to be lulled into a state of inertia by putting self-interest first under the disguise of obedience to the institutional church as they became lackeys before God and mankind in a form of self-serving servitude. Can they now reclaim the white garment won for us by our lord and Master Jesus Christ, which can only be worn in humility and in so doing walk once more before mankind with integrity? I pray that the Catholic Church in Ireland will recapture it’s long heritage from St Patrick onwards and once again become a dominant light within the world wide Catholic Church. Then in this new found grace/humility reclaim the TRUST of the flock by carrying the bright lamp of Truth in openly acknowledging your sins and frailties, shame the Devil and let him be the one trodden underfoot, as you walk before God and mankind in true humility. We need a mature (Adult) spiritual Priesthood that walks in simplicity of thought (Heart/honesty) as Jesus taught. kevin In Christ.