.- Earlier today, Pope Francis accepted a proposal for a new commission which will advise him on the protection of children from abuse, as well as how to offer help to those who are already victims.
“Accepting a proposal that has been presented by the Council of Cardinals, the Holy Father has decided to establish a very specific commission for the protection of children,” Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley told journalists in a Dec. 5 press conference announcing the new initiative.
Cardinal O’Malley is the archbishop of Boston, Mass., USA, and is a member of the Council of Eight Cardinals which was formed by Pope Francis earlier this year to advise him on matters of Church reform and governance.
The proposal for the new commission was originally proposed during yesterday’s evening session, and was officially approved by the Holy Father this morning, the cardinal revealed.
“The commission,” noted Cardinal O’Malley, “will be able to advise the Holy Father about the protection of children and the pastoral care for victims of abuse.”
“Among the responsibilities of the commission will be to study the present programs in place for protection of children and to come up with suggestions or new initiatives on the part of the curia in collaboration with the bishops and the episcopal conferences.”
Cardinal O’Malley emphasized that the goal of the commission is not to take over the role of the individual bishop in determining policies for their dioceses, stating that for this, the “competence lies with bishops.”
Their hope, he expressed, is that the work of the commission will be a “model” for practices which provide an “adequate, pastoral response” to situations of abuse.
When asked if the commission would deal directly with situations where there is a lack of accountability on the part of the bishop in reporting cases of abuse in their dioceses, Cardinal O’Malley stated that it is yet to be determined if this will be a duty of the new commission or of another Vatican body.
The cardinal revealed that the commission will be composed of “international experts” in various fields regarding the protection of minors, including that of psychology.
There is no date set for when the commission will officially begin their work, but Cardinal O’Malley explained that Pope Francis will soon release a document including new details.
This announcement comes in the midst of the second set of meetings of the Council of Eight being held Dec. 3-5 at Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse, following an initial meeting held Oct. 1-3.
Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi affirmed that the Council’s next set of meetings will also last for three days, and is slated to take place Feb. 17-19 of next year.