A respected former member of Pope Francis’ commission on clergy sexual abuse has expressed disappointment at the recent review of the criminal section of the Catholic Church’s canon law, saying the changes do not go far enough to protect children and adults vulnerable to possible predators.
Marie Collins, an Irish survivor who resigned in frustration from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in 2017, stressed during a June 15 webinar that the new provisions do not require a priest convicted of abuse be removed from office. he can hold, or the priesthood.
Instead, the provisions, released on June 1, state that a priest found guilty of abuse can be removed from office or dismissed from the clerical state “when the case requires”.
“They had the opportunity to detail it in black and white,” Collins told the webinar, hosted by Cleveland-based reform group FutureChurch. “They didn’t do that.”
“As we know, a bishop may think something is very serious while another bishop might think it is not very serious,” she said. “[This] it is to leave the decision to personal judgment. “
The new provisions are contained in an updated edition of the sixth of the seven books that make up the Code of Canon Law for the Catholic Church of the Latin Rite, which had been in preparation for more than a decade.
The update largely incorporated laws and procedures promulgated during the papacies of Benedict XVI and Francis, but which had not yet been officially added to the code.
Among the most important changes were new laws specifying that lay people, as well as priests and religious, can be punished for crimes of abuse; and a new recognition that adults, as well as children, can be victimized by priests.
Collins expressed concern over how the new provisions describe a priest who abuses a minor or vulnerable adult as committing “an offense against the Sixth Commandment” with that person.
The sixth commandment is the prohibition against committing adultery.
“As a survivor, I find that very derogatory,” Collins said of the wording of the provisions. “As if somehow the child colluded with the priest to break the sixth commandment.”
“The victims, the children, who have been sexually assaulted, abused or raped do not see how it is a sin to transgress the sixth commandment,” she said.
At a press conference on June 1 presenting the new provisions, the secretary of the Vatican Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts defended the use of the Sixth Commandment.
Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta said that the use of this language made the issue “clear” to Catholics living in diverse cultures on different continents.
In the webinar, Collins also addressed Cardinal Reinhard Marx’s request for Francis to be allowed to resign his post as head of a German archdiocese as a symbol of responsibility for the “systemic failure” of the leaders of church abuse. François refused to accept the resignation on June 10.
“I think Cardinal Marx is a very sincere man,” Collins said. “I think he has an awareness of what happened.”
“It’s sad that a cardinal like Cardinal Marx has come to this point,” she said. “If good men give up… that doesn’t mean anything for the future. Because you need good men to stand there and fight.”