News & Press

March 22, 2014 - Holy Father Francis institutes the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors

The Holy Father Francis has instituted the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which was announced on Dec. 5, 2013, and called to be a part of it:

Dr. Catherine Bonnet (France)
Mrs. Marie Collins (Ireland)
Prof. the Baroness Sheila Hollins (United Kingdom)
Card. Sean Patrick O’Malley, OFM Cap (U.S.)
Prof. Claudio Papale (Italy)
Her Excellency Hanna Suchocka (Poland)
Rev. Humberto Miguel Yañez, SJ (Argentina)
Rev. Hans Zollner, SJ (Germany)

Their principal role will be to prepare the Statutes of the Commission, which will define its tasks and competencies. Other members will be added to the Commission in the future, chosen from various geographical areas of the world.

The biographies of the members are published below. The biography of Dr. Catherine Bonnet is not included.

Marie Collins was born in Dublin, Ireland and is married with one son. She is a founder Trustee of the Marie Collins Foundation, a UK NGO dedicated to the needs of children, young people and their families for whom sexual abuse and harm has arisen via the internet and mobile technologies. Marie was a victim of sexual abuse as a child in the 1960's and brought the priest who abused her to justice in 1997. She has campaigned actively for the protection of children, justice for survivors of clerical sexual abuse, and for a better understanding of the effects of sexual abuse on children and in 2010 Marie was one of the joint recipients of the Irish Humbert Summer School award for Courage. Marie was a founding member of the Irish depression support group "Aware" in 1985 and ran their voluntary "Helpline" for many years, and she is founding Trustee of the Advocacy and Counselling support group for abuse survivors, One in Four (Ireland).  She assisted the Archdiocese of Dublin in setting up their Child Protection Service and drafting of the Catholic Church's all-Ireland child protection policy, "Our Children Our Church."

Professor the Baroness Hollins was born in England and is married, with two children. Sheila is a life peer in the House of Lords, Chair of the Board of Science of the British Medical Association, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry of Disability at St George's University of London, and Honorary Professor in Theology and Religion at the University of Durham. She is a specialist in mental health and has conducted extensive research into clinical and social aspects of the mental and physical health of people with learning disabilities, with a particular focus on bereavement, palliative care and sexual abuse. Sheila has also served as Chair of the World Health Organisation’s Euro Steering Group (2008), President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (2005-2008) and President of the British Medical Association (2012-2013).

Cardinal O'Malley was born in Ohio and a member of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. Cardinal Seán is Archbishop of Boston, a member of the Council of Cardinals, the Congregation for the Clergy, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and the Presidential Council of the Pontifical Council for the Family. The Cardinal holds a PhD in Spanish and Portuguese literature from the Catholic University of America, where he served as professor (1969-1973) and is presently a Trustee. He founded Centro Católico Hispano in Washington, DC, an organization which provided educational, medical and legal help to immigrants. Since his ordination to the episcopacy in 1984, the Cardinal has also served as the Bishop of the dioceses of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands; Fall River, Massachusetts; and Palm Beach, Florida. Cardinal Seán is well-known for his extensive efforts for the protection of children and was one of the Visitators for the Apostolic Visitation of dioceses and seminaries in Ireland (2010).

Claudio Papale is a married man from Rome, Italy.  He is extraordinary professor on the Faculty of Canon Law at the Pontifical Urban University and is also a civil lawyer. He holds a doctorate in Jurisprudence from the Roman University of Tor Vergata and a doctorate in Canon Law from the Pontifical Urban University. Dr. Papale is also an offical of the Disciplinary Section of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Substitute Defender of the Bond on the Regional Tribunal of Puglia.  He recently gave a presentation on "Crimes against morality" on the occasion of an intensive course on crimes reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that was given through the Pontifical Urban University.

Hanna Suchocka was born in Poland. Her Excellency is Professor, University of Poznan, Faculty of Law, a specialist in Constitutional Law, and author of numerous papers and scientific articles on themes regarding human rights. She is the former Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland (1992-1993), Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Republic of Poland (1997-2000), and Ambassador of Poland to the Holy See (2001-2013). She has received honorary degrees from Institut for Family at the Lateran University, Kardinal Wyszynski University in Warsaw, and John Paul University in Krakow. Among many awards, Hanna has received the Max Schmidheimy Stiftung Peace Prize and the Gold Medal of the "Jean Monnet" Foundation (Lausanne) for her activity in favor of integration and human rights.

Humberto Miguel Yáñez, SJ, from Argentina was born in Mendoza in 1956 and ordained a priest in 1986.  He is currently Professor of Moral Theology at the Gregorian University and the Pontifical Urban University.  He is Director of the Department of Moral Theology at the Gregorian University. While in Argentina, he was Director of the Center of Research and Social Action and served as Director of the Center's Review. He also taught on the Faculty of Theology of San Miguel and at the Interdiocesan Seminary of Resistencia and at the Seminary of Moron.  He was a member of the Theology Group that organized the Symposium on the Sexual Abuse of Minors "Towards Healing and Renewal" that was held at the Gregorian University two years ago.

As a Jesuit scholastic, Fr. Janez was formed by Fr. Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who was then rector of the Colegio Maximo of San Miguel. Fr. Janez also worked in the parish of San José were he served as founding pastor with a special concern for pastoral programs for young people.

P. Hans Zollner, SJ, Dr. theol., was born in 1966 in Regensburg (Germany). He is a licensed psychologist and psychotherapist, Academic Vice-Rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University, Director of the Institute of Psychology, and Chair of the Steering Committee of the "Centre for Child Protection" of the Institute of Psychology of the Pontifical Gregorian University. Father Zollner was Chair of the organizing committee of the Symposium "Towards Healing and Renewal" on sexual abuse of minors which was held at Gregorian University in February 2012 and a member of the Scientific Working Group of the "Round Table on Child Abuse" of the Federal Government of Germany.

Comment of Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, Director of the Holy See Press Office

As Blessed John Paul II declared, "People need to know that there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young…. So much pain, so much sorrow must lead to a holier priesthood, a holier episcopate, and a holier Church" (Address of John Paul II to the Cardinals of the United States, 23 April 2002). In the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, as we commit ourselves to the safeguarding of minors, we need "to establish the truth of what happened in the past, to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again, to ensure that the principles of justice are fully respected and, above all, to bring healing to the victims and to all those affected by these egregious crimes" (Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Irish Bishops, 28 October 2006).

Continuing the work undertaken by his predecessors, and having heard the advice of a number of Cardinals, other members of the College of Bishops, and experts in the field, and having duly deliberated, Pope Francis now is forming a Commission for the safeguarding of minors.

Pope Francis has made clear that the Church must hold the protection of minors amongst Her highest priorities. Today, to carry forward this initiative, the Holy Father announces the names of several highly qualified persons who are committed to this issue.

This initial group is now called to work expeditiously to assist in several tasks, including: participating in the deliberations concerning the Commission’s final structure; describing the scope of its responsibilities; and developing the names of additional candidates, especially from other continents and countries, who can offer service to the Commission.

Certain that the Church has a critical role to play in this field, and looking to the future without forgetting the past, the Commission will take a multi-pronged approach to promoting youth protection, including: education regarding the exploitation of children; discipline of offenders; civil and canonical duties and responsibilities; and the development of best practices as they have emerged in society at large.

In this way, and with the help of God, this Commission will contribute to the Holy Father’s mission of upholding the sacred responsibility of ensuring the safety of young people.