Prominent Irish abuse survivor backs Cardinal O'Malley

IMAGE: CNS photo/John McElroy, courtesy World Meeting of Families

By Sarah Mac Donald

DUBLIN (CNS) — Marie Collins, a
survivor of Irish clerical sex abuse, has given her backing to Boston Cardinal
Sean P. O’Malley as president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission for the
Protection of Minors.

At a news conference at the
World Meeting of Families Aug. 24, Collins, a former member of the Vatican commission,
said the cardinal had worked “very hard” to try to achieve
safeguarding changes.

fact that the commission has not been able to achieve anything in the last four
years is not down to Cardinal O’Malley. I don’t think it is fair to lay it at
the door of the cardinal; it is down to the resistance within the Vatican,”
she said.

Collins, 71, also said Cardinal
O’Malley had helped put together the accountability tribunal proposals for
church leaders, which were accepted by Pope Francis but ended up being shelved
due to curial resistance.

In March 2017, Collins resigned
in protest over the blocking of the commission’s work.

“All the other
recommendations came from the commission when I was there, and Cardinal O’Malley
was fully behind and part of putting them forward. So, there is no question of
him being an impediment. The impediment came from within the Vatican Curia,”
she said.

Collins was responding to the
survivor group End Clergy Abuse, which called for Cardinal O’Malley to be
dismissed from the pontifical commission over its failure to deliver more
far-reaching change.

Gabriel Dy-Liacco, a
psychotherapist and current member of the pontifical commission, also backed
Collins’ view: “What we have been able to get through is because of
Cardinal O’Malley largely.”

Both participated in the panel
on safeguarding children Aug. 24. The session at the Royal Dublin Society was
moderated by Baroness Sheila Hollins, a psychiatrist and former member of the
Vatican’s safeguarding advisory body. Hollins replaced Cardinal O’Malley, who
withdrew the previous week to concentrate on allegations of inappropriate
behavior at St John’s Seminary in his archdiocese.

fourth panelist was Barbara Thorp, former head of the Office for Pastoral
Support and Child Protection for the Boston Archdiocese.

outlined a series of measures she would like the church to implement to keep
children safe.

later told reporters that there is “denial” in the church over
clerical abuse. “It is not imaginary, there are people who would prefer to
believe that there are multitudes of false allegations, which we know that
there aren’t.”

also go along with the myth that it is all down to homosexual priests and they like
to think it is a media campaign against the church. They also like to think
that survivors like myself, who have spoken out, are just enemies of the church
who want to destroy the church. It is more comfortable to think that.”

the news conference, Thorp appealed for greater transparency from church
organizations. She urged Pope Francis to instruct dioceses and congregations to
adopt a policy of reviewing their files and making the findings public with the
names of anyone identified as having abused a child, along with their
assignment history.

“We went through this
process in the Archdiocese of Boston and it was very challenging, but it was
critical for us to be utterly transparent. I think that is something that could
move this forward,” she said.

Thorp also called for action to
be taken to speed up canonical trials related to clerical abuse, describing the
current pace as “beyond glacial.”

“It is enormously
frustrating that there is no transparency about charges. We had the archbishop
of Guam, who had very serious charges against him, but we never knew what the
actual charges were, it was never made public.” She said years passed
before he was found guilty, but what he was found guilty of was not

She added that the backlog of
cases has caused suffering to survivors. “I would recommend that the Holy
Father appoint a special prosecutor that would take on the cases and address
them and that there would be far more transparency about the actual process.”

She suggested that if the Pennsylvania
dioceses investigated by the attorney general had a policy of carrying out file
reviews and publishing their findings, and had they not stood in the way of
those pursuing claims, the terrible suffering that emerged in the recent grand jury
report would have been addressed sooner and by the church.

Asked to respond to the growing
chorus of church people claiming the abuse crisis was a problem of gay men in
the priesthood, Collins rejected the claim as “a red herring.”

“I certainly don’t agree
with it. We have heterosexual predators and we have homosexual predators. When
it comes to child abuse I don’t believe homosexuality can be put down as the
cause — it may suit some people to think that and they would like to think
that, but I don’t think any studies have shown that this is the case.”

Dy-Liacco also rejected the
link. “Sexual orientation is not the issue here and it is not a cause;
many scientific studies have shown this already.”

The father of five said, “This
is a sexual crime that arises out of a disordered use of power and affection
and is expressed in this way through sexuality.” He said experts suggested
that the significant proportion of cases involving ephebophilia, or the sexual
abuse of adolescent males, by older males was “a crime of opportunity.”

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