Jesuit ‘man on a mission’ sees change happening on sexual abuse


March 29, 2018

By John L. Allen Jr.

Father Hans Zollner, an earnest 51-year-old Bavarian Jesuit psychologist and vice-rector at Rome’s prestigious Gregorian University, who’s considered perhaps Catholicism’s leading expert on sexual abuse and child protection, is, in almost every sense of the word, a man on a mission.

In the 21st century, we use that phrase to mean someone with a cause, and that’s certainly Zollner. He sees the protection of vulnerable people, especially children, as a core part of the Christian faith, and he’s determined to do everything in his power to promote and foster safe environments.

In the history of Zollner’s Jesuit order, “mission” also implies hitting the road, taking the Gospel to the four corners of the world, and that’s him as well. Over the past four years or so, he’s led approximately 600 training sessions in child protection for bishops, religious superiors, and Church institutions, in virtually every part of the world. When he spoke to Crux on March 28, he had just returned from a session with the French bishops in Lourdes, and he ticked off plans for the near future including stops in Kenya and in Papua New Guinea.

While he tries to go wherever he’s invited, Zollner says he gets about one-third more invitations than even someone with his inexhaustible energy and relentless commitment can possibly accept, so he hands those off to a growing network of like-minded colleagues and former students.

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