In an open letter to the Vatican’s top doctrinal official, clerical abuse survivor Marie Collins, who recently resigned from the pope’s anti-abuse commission citing frustrations over resistance to reform within the Roman Curia, warns against a “denial and obfuscation” and insists that key reform moves recommended by the commission have been disregarded.
The open letter from Collins to German Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was published Tuesday by the National Catholic Reporter.
After Collins announced her resignation from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors on March 1, Müller spoke to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera about her claims that his congregation was part of the Curial resistance to the commission’s work. Collins’s letter was styled as a response to comments Müller made in that interview.
Probably the most significant bone of contention involves a new judicial section the Vatican announced in June 2015 within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith intended to impose accountability on bishops who mishandle abuse complaints.
That idea was later abandoned, and Müller told the Italian newspaper it had been only a “project.”
Collins objected, insisting that it was initially presented not as a “project” but a firm commitment by Pope Francis, and argued that the gap in accountability still needs to be filled.
“If all necessary means have been in place to address the case of a bishop negligent in respect of protection of children from abuse, why then has no bishop been officially, transparently sanctioned or removed for this negligence?” she asked.
“If it is not lack of laws, then is it lack of will? I am sure many survivors, myself included, would be interested, cardinal, in the answer to this question.”
Collins also strongly objected to the refusal by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to directly acknowledge correspondence from abuse survivors, which Müller described as matter of respecting the rights of local bishops to be the primary contact.
“I was taught to believe that all are equal in the sight of God, but it seems there is a different view in your congregation when it comes to the local bishop and a victim of abuse,” Collins wrote.
“It appears that for you the concern that the local bishop might feel disrespected far outweighs any concern about disrespecting the survivor,” she said.
“How many much more fundamental measures in regard to justice for survivors and the prevention of abuse are being hidebound by anachronistic, bureaucratic, internal hierarchical considerations?” Collins asked.
On other points, Müller had denied there was any lack of cooperation between the congregation and commission. In reply, Collins said the congregation had refused in 2015 to send representatives to the commission’s meetings, a situation that didn’t change until September 2016.
Müller had also insisted that a member of the congregation’s staff was also a member of the commission, but Collins pointed out that official had ceased active involvement in 2015.
In his Corriere della Sera interview, Müller also said that he had never met Collins, but she reminded him they had actually been seated together at a dinner in Dublin, Ireland, shortly after her appointment to the papal commission.
Collins closed the open letter by challenging Müller to address the substance of her concerns.
“When a criticism like mine is raised the people of the church deserve to be given a proper explanation,” she wrote. “We are entitled to transparency, honesty and clarity.”
“No longer can dysfunction be kept hidden behind institutional closed doors. This only succeeds as long as those who know the truth are willing to remain silent.”
Crux recently published another piece by Collins, in which she affirmed her conviction that the problem with reform initiatives on the clerical sexual abuse issue is bureaucratic resistance from within the Vatican.