Marie Collins

Victim disappointed by reforms

By  Christopher Gunty, Catholic News Service
  • September 19, 2019

BALTIMORE -- Clergy sexual abuse victim Marie Collins, who resigned from a Vatican commission on sex abuse two years ago, kicked off a five-city U.S. speaking tour by declaring disappointment with the Vatican summit last February on child protection and efforts toward accountability and transparency.

Collins, who was one of the original members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, resigned in 2017 because she believed promised reforms were not being implemented and Vatican leaders were impeding the commission’s work.

Speaking in Baltimore Sept. 10, she said the abuse crisis has brought the Church to a tipping point. 

“The Church has come to a crossroads,” she said. “It’s got to decide where it’s going to go next because if it doesn’t change, it’s going to lose everything.”

This change, she said, needs to come from the laity.

In 2014, Collins agreed to join a new Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which was half laypeople and half clergy. Collins was the only member who was a victim of clergy sexual abuse.

“Sadly, the promises were not kept,” she said. The commission could not get adequate staffing and resources or access to other Vatican departments. She resigned in 2017 when she said it was clear the commission wouldn’t be able to do what it had intended.

“We put forward a lot of good recommendations to the Pope. They were sent to the Curia. None of the recommendations from 2014 to 2018 were implemented.”

She praised Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who chaired the commission, for doing what he could. “I don’t believe he’s a liar,” but she thinks Pope Francis has people “whispering in his ear” who don’t have the best interests of children as a priority.

“I believe the Pope is doing his best,” she added, “but I believe he’s not being told the truth.”

She said she met with Pope Francis when he visited Dublin in August 2018 for the World Meeting of Families and on his flight back to Rome, she said the Pope said: “Marie Collins is fixated about accountability.”

“I am,” she said, to applause. “I take pride in that.”

She also told the Baltimore audience that the Church “cannot continue to be an institution where clerical secrecy and total dysfunction can continue.”

The Church needs to remove anyone who would abuse children, she said. “They should all be cleaned out and any colleagues who protected them.”

The laity have power in the Church, she said. “It’s our Church. It’s our children. We must act.”

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