A prominent survivor of clerical sexual abuse has accused authorities within the Vatican of hiding behind a culture of silence and secrecy to avoid dealing with the issue.
Marie Collins has resigned from a special Vatican commission, created by Pope Francis, to tackle the issue of paedophilia within the church.
In a written statement she cited a refusal by senior men in the Vatican to cooperate with the commission as a key factor in her decision.
“The reluctance of some in the Vatican Curia to implement recommendations or cooperate with the work of a commission, when the purpose is to improve the safety of children and vulnerable adults around the world, is unacceptable,” Ms Collins said.
“Is this reluctance driven by internal politics, fear of change, clericalism which instils a belief that ‘they know best’ or a closed mindset which sees abuse as an inconvenience or a clinging to old institutional attitudes?
“I do not know the answer but it is devastating in 2017 to see that these men still can put other concerns before the safety of children and vulnerable adults.”
Ms Collins has been a tireless campaigner for the rights of victims of child sexual abuse within the Catholic church since she herself was raped by a hospital chaplain in the 1960s, when she was 13.
In 2014 she was one of two survivors of clerical sexual abuse appointed to Pope Francis’ Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
But she said she had no choice but to resign.
“There is still a core of men in the Vatican, in the Curia, in the Pope’s administration, who do not want to cooperate with the commission and its work. For me, that there are men still in the church in 2017 who could put anything in front of child protection is appalling,” she told ABC News Radio.
“And I don’t believe it’s something I should stay and ignore. Silence and secrecy are something they hide behind so often, and I felt I had to resign and come out and talk about it.”
Ms Collins said from the start the commission faced bureaucratic obstacles, including a lack of resources, office space and staff, poor support structures and difficulties communicating with key Vatican departments.
In 2015, with the Pope’s support, the commission recommended a tribunal be set up to hear specific allegations against negligent bishops. But a key authority with the Vatican — the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — later stopped the tribunal from going ahead because of unspecified “legal” difficulties.
Obstruction of tribunal the final straw
Ms Collins said the refusal to implement one of the commission’s simplest recommendations was the final straw.
“It’s appalling that so many church leaders still refuse to confront the issue or cooperate with the commission,” she said.
Ms Collins emphatically claimed Pope Francis was not one of the problems holding the commission back. (AP: Alessandra Tarantino)
“This element within the Vatican Curia, that will not move forward, who live in the past, who still feel things can be done as they were always done — the same sort of attitude I faced when I went to my Diocese 20 years ago to try and bring my abuser to justice — it’s just echoed in these men,” she said.
“It’s a shameful attitude to still be there in the church at this point, when the church has seen so much over the last 20 and 30 years, and knows so much about what has happened.
“It’s just beyond belief there are still men in that level in the church who would obstruct progress.”
But Ms Collins made it clear that she does not see Pope Francis as the problem.
“People think because the Pope says something should happen it will happen. He’s dependent on things being implemented by the men below him, and as we know there are people resisting him,” she said.
“Maybe they’re resisting the commission, or not cooperating with the commission, just as another way of resisting the Pope himself. I don’t know.
“Vatican politics is a very unpleasant area to get into and I don’t want to get into it. But it’s just wrong that there are still men there with these attitudes.”