Vatican abuse commission now more ‘impact-focused,’ Boston’s Cardinal O’Malley says

Catholic News Agency - EWTN [Denver CO]

May 8, 2023

By Joe Bukuras

In his role as president of the Vatican’s child protection commission, Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley said the body’s recent actions “represent a major shift towards a more impact-focused direction.” 

At the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which took place from May 3–6, members adopted several new policies and updates in an attempt to address the sexual abuse crisis. 

Those changes include a proposal updating the Church’s guidelines for addressing clergy sexual abuse, a forthcoming “audit tool” to “evaluate the adequacy of local churches safeguarding guidelines,” and a new fund supported by bishops’ conferences around the world to support victims, their families, and communities in impoverished areas, according to the commission’s May 8 press release.

“At times, this new direction has been both steep and fast for all of us reflecting the urgency of the challenges. This accelerated pace over the last six months has caused growing pains as we have attempted to respond to both short and longer-term needs,” O’Malley said in the press release.

“In our plenary, we developed key adjustments to our working methodology so as to clarify our different roles and to create a sense of common ownership of our mandate and of our collective responsibility for its implementation,” O’Malley said.

During the plenary assembly, the commission also reviewed a partnership agreement that it has had with the GHR Foundation since December 2022. The GHR Foundation, a U.S.-based Catholic philanthropic organization, provides “regional safeguarding consultants” to the commission, the press release said. 

The commission reviewed the framework for the Annual Report of Safeguarding Policies and Procedures in the Church, which Pope Francis requested in April to promote “transparency and accountability” on sexual abuse responses from the local churches around the world.

“The plan adopts a human-centered design methodology that focuses on how the needs of victims and survivors can be prioritized and addressed in the Church’s reporting mechanisms with the purpose of offering proposals to the Holy Father on how gaps can be addressed,” the press release said.

As requested by Pope Francis, the commission brainstormed about ways “to animate the Church to combat the evils of online child abuse,” the press release said.

A five-year plan “identifying objectives, goals, and performance indicators to measure progress and to provide accountability to stakeholders” was also adopted by the commission, the press release said. 

Additionally, the commission collaborated with the Dicastery for the Evangelization of Peoples “to further the goals of safeguarding through the work of the Vatican office that oversees the Church’s life in more than half the territory of the globe,” the press release said.

A new study “of the theme of vulnerability in its various forms” was commissioned “so as to equip Church entities with robust measures to combat this emerging area of abuse,” the press release said.

“The Holy Father has asked a lot from us, and we are all committed to making this work,” O’Malley said. 

“We have sought the necessary resources to respond adequately, and we are confident in the plan we have laid out and the people we have working with us,” he concluded.

Joseph Bukuras is a journalist at the Catholic News Agency.  Joe has prior experience working in state and federal government, in non-profits, and Catholic education. He has contributed to an array of publications and his reporting has been cited by leading news sources, including the New York Times and the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the Catholic University of America. He is based out of the Boston area.