Vatican Commission Issues Statutes on Protection of Minors

'The effective protection of minors and a commitment to ensure their human and spiritual development … are integral parts of the Gospel message that the Church and all members of the faithful are called to spread throughout the world,' Pope Francis said in his official document for the commission.

(photo: CNA/Camille King)

VATICAN CITY — After meeting for the first time as a complete entity in February, the Vatican Commission for the Protection of Minors has published their formal statutes, effective for three years.

“The effective protection of minors and a commitment to ensure their human and spiritual development … are integral parts of the Gospel message that the Church and all members of the faithful are called to spread throughout the world,” the Pope said in his official document, called the chirograph, for the commission.

Dated March 22, 2014, the chiropraph established the foundation of the commission. It was published May 8 along with the statutes. The statutes were approved by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin April 21 by mandate of Pope Francis. They were published in the original Italian and in English.

Effective ad experimentum (“to the test”) for three years, the statutes serve as temporary yet formal acting guidelines for the commission.

Once the three years is up, modifications can be made before setting the permanent guidelines, which will be approved by the Pope.

Announced in December 2013, the commission is currently headed by Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, while Boston priest Msgr. Robert Oliver serves as its secretary.

Established by Pope Francis last March in order to explore various proposals and initiatives geared toward the improvement of norms and procedures for protecting children and vulnerable adults, the commission met for the first time with all of its members Feb. 6-8 in the Vatican.

Composed of a maximum number of 18 members, the commission is described in the statutes as an autonomous institution attached to the Holy See and an advisory body to the Holy Father with public judiciary rights.

With the protection of minors as a topic of “paramount importance,” the statutes emphasize that the purpose of the commission is to propose initiatives to the Pope that promote local responsibility in dioceses and for the protection of minors and vulnerable adults.

In his chirograph, the Pope noted how there have been many “painful actions” that have caused the entire Catholic Church to do a very critical examination of conscience, which has included asking victims and society for forgiveness due to the harm these actions have caused.

The commission, he said, is a response to these actions and marks “the firm beginning for initiatives of many different types, which are intended to repair the damage, to attain justice and to prevent, by all means possible, the recurrence of similar incidents in the future.”

Made up of a president, secretary and various officials, commission members don’t need to be Catholic, but must be persons “of recognized competence in the protection of minors.”

All members must be appointed by the Pope and will serve in three-year terms, which can be renewed when a term comes to an end.

Members of the commission are divided into various working groups. Once the group finishes their area of study and issues a proposal, they move on to a different topic.

Proposals must be approved by two-thirds of the commission before they are presented to the Holy Father. It not approved, the group will continue to study and redraft the proposal.

Each group is to have a moderator appointed by the commission’s president, and each moderator is to choose three collaborators to assist in the topic being studied.

Various working groups have already been established within the commission. As of February, groups addressing the needs and care of abuse survivors and bishop’s accountability had already met.

Confidentiality regarding reports or information received in the course of the commission’s work was also addressed in the statutes.

Pope Francis stressed in his chiropraph that he relies on the commission’s members “for the effective protection of minors and vulnerable adults, regardless of religion they profess, because they are the little ones on whom the Lord looks with love.”

He said, “To my collaborators in this work, I ask for all efforts possible to assist me in responding to these needs of these little ones.”

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