The resignation from the pontifical commission for the protection of minors by Marie Collins, an Irish woman who at the age of 13 was herself the victim of sexual abuse by a priest, has caught the media off guard, resulting in haphazard coverage and highly divergent judgments.
There are those who have blamed everything, in the wake of some statements by Collins herself, on the “shameful” resistance of the Roman curia against the commission’s proposals and against Pope Francis, who set it up.
There are those who have focused their fire on the congregation for the doctrine of the faith and on its prefect, Cardinal Gerhard L. Müller, as the main culprits behind the mess.
But there are also those – like the ultra-Bergoglian Alberto Melloni – who have deflected back onto Collins and onto a few reckless proposals of the commission, inevitably rejected by the curia, the blame of deliberately getting Pope Francis into trouble.
In reality, right from the start there was one voice above suspicion that called for more prudent judgments: that of the esteemed German Jesuit Hans Zollner, president of the Centre for Child Protection of the Pontifical Gregorian University, the architect of the commission and a supporter of Collins, who in his view is today too “impatient” concerning a “cultural change” that necessarily requires time and effort, not so much in the curia as in the Church worldwide.
Even Cardinal Müller has had his say, explaining why it was not possible to accept some of the proposals of the commission, in particular the one to set up within the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, already equipped with a supreme tribunal for cases of pedophilia involving ecclesiastics, a special extra tribunal for bishops implicated in such cases.
But there is one point that has essentially met with silence. And it is the criticism that Marie Collins has leveled against Pope Francis himself.
The most pointed criticism dates back to two years ago.
When on January 10, 2015 Francis promoted to the diocese of Osorno, Chile the bishop Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid, Collins and other members of the commission protested strenuously.
The new bishop, in fact, was under substantiated accusations from three victims of sexual abuse, who charged him with having shielded the priest Fernando Karadima, for many years a celebrity of the Chilean Church but in the end condemned to “prayer and penance” by the Holy See for his countless verified misdeeds.
The new bishop’s installation in his diocese was heavily contested. But on March 31 the Vatican congregation for bishops stated that it had “attentively studied the prelate’s candidacy and had not found objective reasons that would block his appointment.”
So in April, Collins and other members of the commission for the protection of minors went to Rome to ask the president of the commission, Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley (in the photo), to urge the pope to revoke the appointment.
But they got the opposite result. One month later, in May, Pope Francis responded to questions from a former spokesman of the Chilean episcopal conference he met in Saint Peter’s Square. And he went after the bishop’s accusers, in his most indignant words ever.
The video of the encounter was made public afterward. And these are the pope’s actual words:
“It is a Church [that of Osorno] that has lost its freedom because it has let its head be filled up by the politicians, judging a bishop without any proof after twenty years of service. So think with your heads, and don’t let yourselves be led by the nose by all those leftists who are the ones who drummed up the business.
“Furthermore, the only accusation that there has been against this bishop has been discredited by the judicial court. So please, eh? Don’t lose your serenity. Yes, [the diocese of] Osorno is suffering, because it is stupid, because it is not opening its heart to what God is saying and is letting itself get carried away by the stupidities that all those people are saying. I am the first to judge and punish those who have been accused of such things. . . But in this case there is a lack of proof, or rather, on the contrary. . . I say it from the heart. Don’t let yourselves be led by the nose by these people who are seeking only to make ‘lío,’ confusion, who seek to calumniate. . . .”
The “leftists” – “zurdos” in Argentine slang – who had particularly irritated the pope included the 51 Chilean deputies, for the most part of the socialist party of president Michelle Bachelet, who had signed a petition against the appointment of Barros as bishop of Osorno.
So then, when the video with Francis’s words were made public, Marie Collins said she was “discouraged and saddened when you see the claims of Karadima’s courageous victims categorized in this way” by the pope.
That of the bishop of Osorno is not the only case in which Jorge Mario Bergoglio has commandeered judgment for himself, nullifying or sidestepping canonical procedures.
In Italy there has been an uproar over the act of “mercy” with which he has graced Fr. Mauro Inzoli, a prominent priest of the movement Communion and Liberation, reduced to the lay state in 2012 by the congregation for the doctrine of the faith for having abused numerous young people, but restored to the active priesthood by Francis in 2014, with the admonishment that he lead a life of penance and prayer. In the civil arena, Inzoli has been sentenced to 4 years and 9 months in prison.
Marie Collins also protested against such indulgences: “While mercy is important, justice for all parties is equally important. If there is seen to be any weakness about proper penalties, then it might well send the wrong message to those who would abuse.”
(English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.)