[Editor’s note: In the wake of the resignation of the last clerical abuse survivor to serve as an active member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Irish lay woman Marie Collins, Crux editor John L. Allen Jr. published an analysis suggesting that the outcome may have been both inevitable and desirable.
Collins objected via social media, and Crux offered her the opportunity to reply. The following is that response.]
Firstly I want to thank Crux for offering me the right of reply. Although in the article I am combined with Peter Saunders, I am here speaking only for myself.
I was quite disturbed reading this article as in many cases John Allen purports to know my feelings and how I was thinking in certain situations. I found this not only to be inaccurate, but also patronising.
The statement that my resignation was “inevitable” is certainly not true. There was no “inevitability” of my leaving, unless Allen knew in advance that there were men in the Roman Curia who would be obstructing the commission, and I would refuse to cover it up!
I accepted my appointment to the Pontifical Commission with every intention of remaining for my full term.
The article seems to imply that because I was sexually abused by a priest in childhood I am incapable of independent thought or action, that I must always be looking over my shoulder concerned how my words or actions might be seen by survivors outside the commission. It also stated that I was put in a “politically untenable spot.”
If Allen knew me and my record in working for child protection over twenty years, he would know I have always kept completely clear of “politics,” both Church and survivor politics. I have concerned myself solely with bringing better understanding of the effects of abuse on a victim’s life and better protection of the vulnerable.
I have always followed my own conscience and not seen myself as a representative of any group. This at times has angered some survivors, but that has never swayed me from my determination to be independent.
Allen states that my selection for appointment to the commission was partly in order that “credibility in the survivor community would translate to the papal commission.” If this is true (I do not know who are the sources for this) it would indicate enormous deceit in those who spoke to me on behalf of the pope before I accepted my appointment.
I was clear then I had no intention of being a “token” survivor there to add “credibility.” I was assured strongly this was not the case.
I was being asked in order to bring my personal understanding of abuse as a survivor into the Commission as this perspective was of vital importance to the work.
I had been chosen specifically because of my experience of working on safeguarding policy development, having been involved in the setting up of a diocesan child protection office, my involvement in educational projects on child protection and the response to my participation in the 2012 Symposium on abuse held in the Gregorian University.
Therefore I was qualified to work on policy development, to impart understanding of the survivor experience and had shown in the past my ability to work with the Church. If all this was a lie, then shame on those men of the clergy who made these statements to me. It would validate every accusation that the Church only cares for optics not the reality.
At no point during my time with the Commission did Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston [president of the commission] or members of the commission treat me with anything other than respect as an equal, working for the better protection of children. I certainly never felt my contribution was seen as only as a name on the member list!
Allen states that it was “dicey” at times for me to “figure out how much to say in public.” I can say without hesitation that at no time did I have any difficulty in discerning what I could or could not say in public. I at all times respected the confidentiality rules as per the statutes of the commission, and would not have accepted my appointment if I had felt I was not capable of so doing.
The statement that survivors “will never be satisfied” in the context of the article implies that I would never be satisfied and that this in some way was the motivation for my resignation. If all dioceses in the Church replicated the policies and their implementation as some dioceses have, e.g. the Archdiocese of Dublin in Ireland, then we would be in a much better place.
What I do say is no one in the Church or the secular world should ever be complacent about the safety of children or vulnerable adults.
Finally, Allen says in regard to survivor input to the commission in the future, that now I have resigned, “it could actually mean a transition to a more honest, freer, and less personally conflicted way of doing it.” I would assure anyone who is interested that I at all times was honest, free and did not spend my time “personally conflicted.”
The article clearly uses a familiar device – when in difficulties divert attention away from the actual problem. Survivors on the commission are not the problem – the resistance to change by clerical men in the Curia is the problem!