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Vatican setting up commission against sexual abuse of minors

Pope Francis delivers a prayer from the window of his apartment at the Vatican on November 17.

Story highlights

  • The commission's purpose is to prevent the abuse of minors and support victims of abuse
  • Commission members not yet chosen, will be international
  • The proposal came from the Council of Cardinal Advisers, helping Pope on reform

Pope Francis is creating a commission to prevent the abuse of minors and to support victims of abuse, Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley announced Thursday in Rome.

The new commission is expected to tell church officials to collaborate with civil authorities and report cases of abuse, O'Malley said.

But he also said that the church has focused on the judicial aspect of sexual abuse in the past, and that Pope Francis now wants to focus on the pastoral side, and caring for victims.

The Pope has not yet chosen the members of the new commission but it will be international in composition and include experts, O'Malley added.

The eight-member Council of Cardinal Advisers, which has been in Rome since Monday meeting with the Pope, proposed the special commission and the Pope accepted it, O'Malley said.

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The cardinals, who come from around the world, are helping the Pope with Vatican reform.

The Vatican news service released a statement outlining the commission's lines of action, including a look at guidelines, priest "formation" programs, codes of conduct, and screening candidates for priesthood.

No timetable for the establishment of the panel was given.

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Awaiting Pope's response

Observers have been awaiting Pope Francis' response to a scandal that has generated deep mistrust in the church and driven many Catholics away from the faith, particularly in the United States.

At a meeting with Dutch bishops earlier this week, the Pope spoke of the victims.

"I want to express my compassion and to ensure my prayers to all victims of sexual abuse and their families," he said, according to the Vatican news service.

However SNAP -- the U.S.-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests -- said the creation of "another commission surveying bishops and recommending policies is meaningless."

"It's like offering a Band-Aid to an advanced cancer patient," SNAP said in a statement

"Only decisive action helps, not more studies and committees and promises. ... Clergy sex crimes should be dealt with by secular authorities."

In July, Pope Francis announced a law making it a crime to abuse children sexually or physically on Vatican grounds.

The acts were already crimes under church law, but are now specifically outlawed within the Vatican city-state, which is home to hundreds of people.

The legislation also covers child prostitution and the creation or possession of child pornography.

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