Fighting the resistance – Fr. Zollner on the struggle of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors

In an interview published by Katholisch.de today, Father Hans Zollner SJ sheds his light on the resistance from certain persons in the Roman Curia against measures to fight sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy or other representatives of the Church. Fr. Zollner is a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, most recently in the news because of the departure of Ms. Marie Collins, herself a survivor of abuse. She named the aforementioned resistance against the commission’s work as the main reason for leaving. Fr. Zollner explains:

ZollnerHans-SIR“Of course there is resistance, but not specifically against the representatives of victims or the Commission. The entire topic of abuse is deeply terrible and frightening. Dealing with it and facing it requires a lot of courage. And I believe that many clerics, but also non-clerics, find this very difficult. This is not limited to the Curia. Last Monday – three years after the establishment of the Commission – I was able to speak for the first time about this topic to the Italian bishops in Bologna. It was the same in Ecuador and Colombia a few weeks ago, and next week it will be the same in Malawi. We must conclude that the topic of abuse has not yet registered worldwide. Not in the Church, but also not in society. But it can no longer be ignored now. That is also a merit of the Commission: it has made it public across the world. The question remains if those responsible in the Church will actively pursue the topic out of self-motivation, or only when scandals become public.”

While, according to Fr. Zollner, the resistance that exists is not based on anything exlusive to the Church, but rather the human hesitation of dealing with something painful, there are specific problems in the Church that must be dealt with before the scourge of sexual abuse can be efficiently fought.

“On the one hand, people criticise Rome – in part rightly so -, which does not handle the topic of child abuse coherently. On the other hand bishops’ conferences continue to refuse to implement instructions from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from the year 2011. Of course, one can wonder who no take them to task about this. Very simply: because the Church has no means to sanction entire bishops’ conference. Even five years after the deadline set by Rome, for example, some West-African countries have no guidelines for dealing with victims and perpetrators of abuse.”

The Catholic Church is not a big company, with the Pope as a sort of CEO. There is only so much Rome can do, even when everyone there cooperates, to enforce policies like the 2011 CDF instruction. Levelling accusations against the Curia or the Pope, while sometimes justified, is often too simplistic.

Photo credit: SIR

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New apostolic delegate to the tropical Netherlands

Following the reassignment of Archbishop Thomas Gullickson to the Ukraine in May (which sadly seemed to herald the end of his blog, Island Envoy), the island nations in the Carribean welcomed their new Nuncio yesterday. He is Archbishop Nicola Girasola, 54, who arrives from an almost six year stint as prelate diplomat in Zambia and Malawi.

Among the countries and dependencies where he will be the highest representative of the Holy See, are the Dutch constituent countries of Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten, and the special municipalities of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba.

Archbishop Girasoli was born in Apulia, southern Italy, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1980 by Blessed Pope John Paul II. In 1986 he was incardinated in the Diocese of Molfetta-Ruvo-Giovinazzo-Terlizzi. 20 years later, at the age of 48, Fr. Girasoli was appointed to be the nuncio to Zambia and Malawi, being ordained as archbishop of the titular see of Egnazia Appula (perhaps not coincidentally also the location of his hometown) in March of that year. Now, close to six years later, he is transferred to 10 independent countries, where he’ll be the Nuncio, and 14 more dependencies, where he’ll hold the position of Apostolic Delegate.