The last priest abuse survivor on the Vatican's commission on clerical sex abuse resigned from the commission in protest on Wednesday. Marie Collins of Ireland was appointed to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors shortly after Pope Francis formed the commission in 2014. But bureaucratic infighting and resistance within the Catholic Church finally became too much for Collins, who explained her decision in an op-ed published on Wednesday by the National Catholic Reporter.
"When I accepted my appointment to the Commission in 2014, I said publicly that if I found what was happening behind closed doors was in conflict with what was being said to the public I would not remain," Collins wrote. "This point has come. I feel I have no choice but to resign if I am to retain my integrity."
Collins listed "lack of resources, inadequate structures around support staff, slowness of forward movement and cultural resistance" as the "main stumbling blocks" that have prevented the commission from fulfilling its duties. Those duties include proposing initiatives to the Pope that would help protect children and vulnerable adults, along with promoting local responsibility in churches, according to the commission's founding documents. But Collins says the commission was prevented from enacting measures that the pope had personally approved.
"The Commission’s recommendation for a Tribunal to be put in place whereby negligent bishops could be held accountable was approved by Pope Francis and announced in June 2015," Collins said. "Yet it was found by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as Baroness Sheila Hollins stated to the Royal Commission, to have unspecified 'legal' difficulties, and so was never implemented."
Even minor changes, like making sure the Vatican responded to letters written by abuse survivors, were not implemented, Collins said.
"It is a reflection of how this whole abuse crisis in the Church has been handled: with fine words in public and contrary actions behind closed doors," Collins wrote.
Peter Saunders of England was the only other abuse survivor to serve with Collins on the commission. But Saunders was placed on leave in February 2016 due to friction with other members, the Reporter said.
Between 2000 and 2014, 3,400 credible cases of child abuse were referred to the Vatican, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi told a U.N. committee in 2014. Tomasi also said that 848 priests had been defrocked and another 2,572 were sentenced to a lifetime of penance, a penalty usually reserved for old and infirm priests.