Pope Francis plans to set up a special commission on child sexual abuse to protect children from pedophile priests and teach the clergy how to counsel victims, the Vatican announced Thursday.
The news comes just as the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis released the names of 34 priests accused of sexually abusing minors. On Tuesday, a United Nations panel was critical of the Vatican’s handling of sexual abuse cases.
The commission is a sobering acknowledgement of the continuing problem of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church.
Made up of experts, the commission would “study these issues and bring concrete recommendations.”
“Up until now there has been so much focus on the judicial parts of this, but the pastoral part is very, very important,” Boston archbishop Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley said Thursday. “The Holy Father is concerned about that.”
It’s been nine months since his coronation, and Francis hasn’t said much about the sexual abuse problem since April.
“Francis is great on a lot of stuff but hasn’t really done anything about sex abuse cases,” John L. Allen Jr., the senior correspondent for The National Catholic Reporter, told the New York Times. “A lot of people most focused on this issue said that Francis needs to game up. So the PR thing to say was, ‘We’re doing something.’”
It is unclear how the commission will handle the disciplining of abusive priest or those who cover up abuse.
“A new church panel is the last thing that kids need,” David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, told The Times. “Church officials have mountains of information about those who have committed and those who are concealing horrible child sex crimes and cover-ups. They just have to give that information to the police.”