>>>Pedophilia in the Church: Why Catherine Bonnet submitted her resignation to the Pope
February 20, 2018
By Claire Chartier
Le pape a remanié ce samedi la commission contre la pédophilie du Vatican. La pédopsychiatre Catherine Bonnet avait présenté sa démission dès juin dernier. Elle s’en explique.
La lutte contre la pédophilie dans l’Église cause décidément bien des remous au Vatican. Le pape vient d’annoncer le renouvellement de plus de la moitié des membres de la Commission pontificale sur la protection des mineurs, après trois ans de fonctionnement.
Dès juin dernier, la pédopsychiatre française Catherine Bonnet, spécialiste des violences sexuelles sur mineurs, avait présenté de manière confidentielle sa démission au pape. Avant elle, deux autres membres de l’instance et ex-victimes, le Britannique Peter Saunders et l’Irlandaise Marie Collins, avaient claqué la porte de façon tonitruante. Catherine Bonnet, explique les raisons de son retrait.
Pourquoi avoir présenté votre démission au pape?
Catherine Bonnet. Je plaidais à titre personnel pour que les évêques et les supérieurs des ordres religieux aient l’obligation de signaler des suspicions de violences sexuelles sur mineurs aux autorités civiles, ce qui se fait déjà aux États-Unis y compris pour tous les membres du clergé. J’avais des soutiens, mais quand j’ai vu, en juin, que je n’allais pas pouvoir convaincre les deux tiers des membres de la commission, comme le veut la règle, j’ai écrit ma lettre de démission. J’ai demandé au cardinal O’Malley de la transmettre au pape. Lequel ne l’a d’ailleurs pas acceptée.
[ Edited Google Translation:
Pedophilia in the Church: Why Catherine Bonnet submitted her resignation to the Pope
The pope has reshuffled this Saturday the Vatican’s commission against pedophilia. The child psychiatrist Catherine Bonnet had resigned last June. She explains it.
The fight against pedophilia in the Church is definitely causing a stir in the Vatican. The pope has just announced the renewal of more than half of the members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, after three years of operation.
As early as last June, French child psychiatrist Catherine Bonnet, a specialist in sexual violence against minors, confidentially presented her resignation to the pope. Before her, two other members of the court and ex-victims, the British Peter Saunders and Ireland’s Marie Collins, had slammed the door loudly. Catherine Bonnet, explains the reasons for her withdrawal.
Why did you submit your resignation to the pope?
Catherine Bonnet. I personally advocated that bishops and superiors of religious orders be required to report suspicions of sexual abuse of minors to civil authorities, which is already done in the United States, including for all clergy. I had support, but when I saw in June that I was not going to be able to convince two-thirds of the commissioners, as the rule is, I wrote my letter of resignation. I asked Cardinal O’Malley to pass it on to the Pope. Who did not accept it.
Is this reporting obligation the same as the one you have been asking for for several years for medical staff who suspect sexual violence committed against their young patients?
It is indeed the same logic. This reporting is essential because it highlights the responsibility of bishops and religious leaders: when the law obliges people to report, it is easier to prosecute those who are silent, and who by their silence prevent the victims’ recovery and hope for justice. In addition, this measure followed from the motu proprio of the pope, “Like a loving mother”.
The motu proprio raises the idea that every bishop or other religious person who is accused of negligence is judged by a disciplinary committee, specifically constituted for the occasion, after the instruction by congregational leaders. Then the pontiff would decide, assisted by a group of expert jurists. A year before, our commission had advocated something else: the creation of a tribunal before which would be brought the bishops who remained silent on pedophilia cases. The Pope and his C9 Cardinals Council accepted our proposal in June 2015.
What did you think of this change?
We have not been informed of the reasons for the change. The most important thing was that something was put in place. But the motu proprio was to come into effect in September 2016. So far, no case has been heard.
Another source of concern that you share with the rest of the members of the former commission is the lifting of the pontifical secret for cases of violence against minors. What is it, exactly?
The pontifical secret is the confidentiality code of canon law. It applies to every complaint related to the internal life of the Church which is the subject of a canonical procedure.
Clearly, nothing filters these files?
Less than nothing, I would say, since the victims themselves do not have access to the elements of the procedure. When they send letters, they don’t get a response! Marie Collins found this point particularly unbearable. The pontifical secret, however, is relatively recent, since its premises date from 1922 and it was expanded to its present form in 1974. Our commission had voted by majority a proposal asking the pope to authorize the exceptional lifting of this secret for sexual violence against minors. This would have allowed us to establish the rights of victims during the proceedings and in particular to determine whether or not there are any obstacles to reporting in the cases concerned.
What has become of this proposal?
The pope did not give an answer. I hope that he will be able to give one and that the new committee will make progress on this point.
You also wanted your group to hear victims. That makes sense, right?
Indeed. In 35 years of experience on this subject, all that I learned, I drew from the testimonies I collected and from the field. It is essential to be able to hear adult survivors, either alone or in the context of associations in the struggle, such as Ending Clerical Abuse. We wanted to work with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which is officially charged with pedophilia issues in the Vatican. But it was not easy. However, the pope appointed Cardinal O’Malley to the Congregation to improve things, and he did not renew his prefect, Cardinal Muller. The problem is that the pope did not come to our plenary meetings. It would have been necessary that one could submit to him our subjects of debate before our meetings, and that he comes to think with us. Not to mention that we only meet for a week, twice a year! It is far too little. Pope Francis must now make the protection of children a priority.
What do you think of the new commission?
There are more members, some of whom have a relevant profile: a professor of African law who belonged to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, a retired Australian judge – no judge was a member, until now – a Polish specialist in constitutional law and a religious expert in canon law, for example. A commission such as this one must make recommendations, but not only. If you want to arrest criminals, there has to be a change of law, because that’s the only thing that scares them. ]
Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.