After a "turbulent" year, marked by the resignation of Hans Zollner SJ, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors concluded its Plenary Assembly on September 23. The members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors focused their days on evaluating the progress made in the implementation of the three main areas of its new mandate, one year after the renewal of its members.
The areas in question are "assisting in the updating and implementation of the Church-wide safeguarding guidelines; assisting in the implementation of Article 2 of Vos Estis Lux Mundi to ensure the reception and assistance of those who have suffered abuse and to prepare for the Holy Father an Annual Report on Safeguarding Policies and Procedures in the Church."
Regarding the latter, the Commission expects to publish a preliminary draft of the Annual Report by the end of September, with a view to publishing the first Annual Report in the spring of 2024.
Advances in private churches
The members of the Commission have reviewed the results of the global survey on the Universal Framework of Guidelines. This survey received more than 300 responses and 700 suggestions and, based on these ideas, the Commission will continue to incorporate comments until March 2024.
In addition to this document, the commission has reviewed the reports of the visits Ad Limina and prepared recommendations that will be transmitted to the respective local churches and published in the Annual Report. During this year, 13 bishops' conferences were able to express their ideas and suggestions to the commission at the meetings of their Ad Limina visits.
Aid to churches with scarce resources
One of the keys to this Plenary has been the Church's commitment to safeguarding minors. In fact, to prevent churches with scarce resources from not being able to implement the norms and protocols related to the prevention, reporting and healing of abuse cases, the Commission oversees a funding mechanism sponsored by Church donors who have pledged to provide $2.5 million in funding for these under-resourced churches. Africa is one of the most depressed areas and, in fact, 20 local churches - including bishops' conferences and conferences of religious - have expressed a desire to join the program.
Transitional justice and child abuse
In addition to this, the Plenary heard a presentation by Dr. Davin Smolin, Professor of Constitutional Law at Samford University Law School, on the applicability of the concept of transitional justice to the work of the Church in combating sexual abuse. In this regard, the Commission will consider how to incorporate this approach to addressing significant human rights abuses into its Annual Report.
Cardinal O' Malley, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors thanked the "commitment of such a dedicated group of safeguarding professionals from around the world" and expressed his hope that "the Commission will be able to offer support to all areas of the Church's life where good safeguarding practices should become the norm."