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Pope's sex abuse panel to help new bishops improve child protection

Francis has compared the abuse of children by priests to devil worship and vowed a 'zero tolerance' approach, setting up the commission in 2014, a year after taking office, to advise him on how to root out sexual abuse within the Church. Photograph: (Getty)

WION Vatican City Sep 12, 2016, 06.40 PM (IST)
Pope Francis’ sex abuse panel will provide training to newly appointed bishops on how to deal with child abuse.

Francis set up the panel to root out sexual molestation by priests.

The move, announced on Monday, is a big step for the panel, made up of clerics and lay people, including women, mostly with little previous Vatican experience, that has struggled to be fully accepted within the Church's power structure.

The decision to draw on the expertise of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors comes after a French monsignor who taught so-called "baby bishops" courses for new Church leaders, caused an uproar by telling them they did not necessarily have to report abuse to civil authorities.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, the president of the commission, later rebuked monsignor Tony Anatrella. He said bishops had "a moral and ethical responsibility" to do so.

The worldwide sex abuse scandal first came to light in Boston in 2001 when it was revealed that predatory priests were shunted from parish to parish instead of being defrocked and handed over to the police.

Francis has compared the abuse of children by priests to devil worship and vowed a "zero tolerance" approach, setting up the commission in 2014, a year after taking office, to advise him on how to root out sexual abuse within the Church.

But the slow pace of change in the Vatican has not received a positive response from some of the commission members. 

To add to that, a British member who went public with his criticisms was put on leave of absence after the panel passed a no-confidence motion in him.

Peter Saunders, head of Britain's National Association for People Abused in Childhood, who was abused by two priests as a child, called for the commission to go beyond its advisory mandate and speak out on specific cases.

The commission has decided it will participate in two courses in the Vatican for new bishops, including the one that the French monsignor Anatrella spoke to last year.

(WION with inputs from Reuters)
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