by Filipe Domingues
The secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Msgr Robert Oliver, joined The Lay Centre residents for their community evening 18 March.
After Mass and dinner, Msgr Oliver spoke about the important work his commission is doing around the world against the crime of sexual abuse of minors — not only when committed by clergymen but in all contexts.
Among its priorities are the support of the victims, either psychological or legal, and the zero-tolerance policy for church-related cases.
Pope Francis created the commission, which falls under the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), in 2013. Many who had helped the Catholic Church to create a better policy on this complex issue praised Msgr Oliver’s nomination as secretary in November 2014. A priest of the Archdiocese of Boston, United States, he spent about 10 years dealing with clerical cases there with the archbishop, Cardinal Sean O’Malley. He had dealt with similar problems around the world when working for two years as promoter of justice at the CDF.
The Vatican official explained while at The Lay Centre that one of the commission’s main goals is to help all episcopal conferences in the world to have at least one referential team specialized in assessing sex-abuse cases. The commission is offering formation to the members of these teams and intends to create an online international network to facilitate knowledge-sharing among them. In this way, people working in the Church to minimize the suffering of victims and to assist the bishops on legal and administrative steps are in touch with each other easily.
“They should learn from each other. They should have the chance to tell the others, ‘We tried this here but it did not work’,” he said.
One of the commission’s big challenges is to make sure there are Church officials in every country with appropriate formation to welcome and hear victims, he said.
Msgr Oliver was open to answer any question from our residents, stimulating a very honest conversation on such a difficult topic. Our residents expressed deep concern about how Church authorities have been dealing with sex-abuse cases.
According to Msgr Oliver, there is a big difference between the cases that happened before and after the year 2000.
“Now we have a policy for dealing with them,” he said. “There are better channels for denouncing. There was a huge decrease in the number of cases and all of them are now assessed. The problem has been addressed.”
In recent interview with Mexican journalist Valentina Alazraki, Pope Francis said the Church’s child sex-abuse scandals are “a grave problem.”
“One priest abusing a minor is reason enough to move the Church’s whole structure,” he said.