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Sex abuse survivor resigns from pope's commission on abuse

02 March 2017

A key member of the sex-abuse commission established by Pope Francis has resigned, citing her frustration with the resistance the panel has encountered at the Vatican.

Ms Collins, who is Irish, is the second abuse survivor to leave the panel, known as the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

Ms Collins, who was raped at age 13 by a hospital chaplain in Ireland, was the only active abuse survivor on the commission after British abuse survivor, Peter Saunders, was stood aside by the Vatican panel a year ago for his outspoken criticism, even though he has not resigned or been formally dismissed. She said she is "totally disgusted" that the curia's high-ranking men are obstructing the work of a commission set up to protect children and survivors. Collins had been a member of the panel since 2014.

Collins was regarded by many as the most respected and level-headed of all the clerical abuse victims who have worked with the Vatican.

She said she had pledged when she joined the commission that she would quit the moment she felt "what was happening behind closed doors was in conflict with what was being said to the public". Collins herself is now an illustration of the point, no longer sitting on the group but still accepting an invitation from O'Malley to continue to be part of their training efforts, including for newly appointed bishops from around the world.

Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the head of the commission, said in a statement that he had expressed to Collins "our most honest thanks for the extraordinary contributions she has made as a founding member".

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Pope Francis has accepted her resignation with "deep appreciation for her work on behalf of the victims/survivors of clergy abuse", according to a report by Vatican Radio.

She said the "last straw" that led to her handing in her letter of resignation was when she learned that the same dicastery that refused to cooperate on the safeguarding guidelines had also refused "to implement one of the simplest recommendations the commission has put forward to date".

Fr Zollner acknowledged that these differences in approach were also found within the Curia, as stated by Collins in her letter of resignation. Of the original nine founding members of the commission, Collins was one of two clerical sex abuse survivors, alongside Peter Saunders from the UK. O'Malley understands from extensive personal experience that if you want to understand the spiritual and emotional devastation caused by clerical sexual abuse, there simply is no substitute for hearing the voices of survivors. The office, through its promoter of justice, also monitors the procedures that national bishops' conferences have in place for dealing with abuse accusations and handling the dismissal from the priesthood of those guilty of sexual abuse. "I feel I have no choice but to resign if I am to retain my integrity".

Survivors can be brought in routinely as consultants and advisers, they can be asked to take part in the commission's meetings, they can participate in various projects and initiatives, and so on, all without being forced to carry the political weight for whatever decisions are reached - and remaining free to speak up if they believe those decisions are flawed.

"We will certainly listen carefully to all that Marie wishes to share with us about her concerns and we will greatly miss her important contributions", he said, adding he was grateful Collins had agreed to continue helping to educate church leaders about abuse.

Marie insists that she still supports her colleagues who are "working very sincerely and very hard", as well as Pope Francis who "has been behind the Commission all the way".

Sex abuse survivor resigns from pope's commission on abuse