The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors gathered in Rome and virtually from April 19-22 for its plenary assembly.
The Commission released a statement following the meeting, highlighting the work of the Commission members in the first quarter of 2021, including the publication of the Acts of a 2019 Commission Seminar on “Balancing Confidentiality, Transparency and Accountability in canonical penal processes”; and an online course on “Safe environments in religious life” for superiors general of religious orders and their delegates.
The statement also looked ahead to two upcoming initiatives of the Commission: an academic seminar on “Enculturation of Outreach and healing” for abuse survivors and their families and communities, taking place in June; and a Conference for Church Leadership in Central and Eastern Europe, aimed at helping Church leaders in the region “to understand the needs and challenges they face in the promotion of strategies to prevent and heal those wounded by clerical sexual abuse.”
The Commission noted “a series of constructive meetings with offices of the Roman Curia” aimed at addressing “the realities, challenges, and critical developments” in safeguarding and the Church, especially in the light of developments since the establishment of the Commission in 2014. The members of the Commission expressed their thanks to curial officials at the Congregations for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Doctrine of the Faith, and Catholic Education; the Dicasteries for Laity, Family and Life, and for Promoting Integral Human Development; and the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative texts.
They also expressed gratitude to the International Union of Superiors General and the Union of Superiors General “for their continued cooperation and dedication to the wellbeing of all children and vulnerable people.”
The Commission’s press release closed with “an expression of profound appreciation for the work of outgoing Secretary Monsignor Robert Oliver, who returns to the United States later this year after a decade of service to the Church in the Holy See.”
Monsignor Robert Oliver was unceremoniously relieved of his position with the Pontifical Commission when Pope Francis decided not to renew his mandate. Church officials gave no explanation for the move. Fifteen other members of the Commission saw their terms of service renewed for one year, rather than the normal term of three.
Survivor Cruz joins Commission
At the same time, Pope Francis appointed clerical abuse survivor Juan Carlos Cruz to the Pontifical Commission, giving him a full three-year term. This week, he took part in a Plenary Assembly for the first time.
Cruz, a victim of serial abuser Fernando Karadima, has become a prominent advocate for abuse survivors, notably drawing attention to Pope Francis’s mishandling of abuse cases in Cruz’s native Chile. Pope Francis subsequently admitted to “serious mistakes” in dealing with crisis.
During this week’s Plenary, Cruz said “he hoped his presence and contribution will bring renewed impulse to the Churches’ commitment to hearing, welcoming, assisting and accompanying the children, men and women who have been abused and in creating a space for them in the life of the Church.”
At the time of his appointment, Cruz became the only known survivor of clerical sexual abuse on the Commission.