Pontifical Commission for Protection of Minors reaffirms its commitment

Vatican News - Holy See [Vatican City]

March 30, 2023

The upcoming plenary meeting of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors will address matters that include the entity’s effectiveness. A statement issued by the President of the Commission notes that “the protection of children and vulnerable persons remains at the heart of the Church’s mission.”

After an initial statement issued by Cardinal Sean O’ Malley, President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, announcing the resignation of Father Hans Zollner, he has released another in which he notes the Commission will soon be meeting for its plenary assembly and will discuss issues raised by Fr Zollner’s resignation.

Fr. Hans Zollner, SJ is a renowned child protection expert, and a founding member of the Commission. On Wednesday, 29 March, he asked to be relieved of his duties as a member of the Commission. In a personal statement, he cited “structural and practical issues” within the Commission, which he said had led him “to disassociate” from it.

In his newly-released statement on Thursday in the wake of Fr. Zollner’s communiqué, Cardinal O’Malley expresses surprise and disappointment, saying “I strongly disagree with his publicly-issued assertions challenging the Commission’s effectiveness.”

“We do both share the view that the protection of children and vulnerable persons remains at the heart of the Church’s mission and the Commission will continue to manifest that conviction,” he said.

Cardinal O’Malley had previously said Fr. Zollner had told him that he came to this decision after reflecting on his recent appointment as consultant for Safeguarding to the Diocese of Rome. “In light of this and all his other responsibilities, he has asked to be excused from his place on the Commission and the Holy Father has accepted his request with the deepest of thanks for his many years of service.”

The Cardinal described Fr. Zollner as “an abiding presence over the years as we have seen our Commission grow and find its way as the center for safeguarding throughout the Church.”

“He has helped to shape and implement many of the projects and programs that found their origin in the Commission’s deliberations, most especially the Global Summit in February 2019,” he said.

The President of the Commission also recalled the training Fr. Zollner provided for bishops and religious leaders over the years and in many countries, and how “he has become an ambassador for safeguarding and will continue to be a constant presence in this important work through his roles as director of the Institute for Anthropology of the Gregorian University and consultant to the Diocese of Rome for safeguarding.”

The Cardinal concluded his Thursday statement noting that the Commission has a plenary meeting scheduled in the next few weeks during which it will address these and other matters more fully as a group.