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Centre for Child Protection steps up work to combat sex abuse

Centre for Child Protection steps up work to combat sex abuse

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a message of support to the Centre for Child Protection which has moved its headquarters to Rome to scale up its work of preventing the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.

At a ceremony on Monday evening at Rome’s Gregorian University, Cardinal Sean O’Malley, head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors joined directors of the Centre to underline the work that still needs to be done in Churches across the world to keep children safe.

Philippa Hitchen reports…


In his message to all those involved with the Centre for Child Protection, Pope Francis says he’s greatly encouraged by their work which he knows will bear much fruit. Over the past three years since its foundation, the CCP has been running an e-learning course, offering online training in awareness, prevention and care for survivors of child sexual abuse. Working with Church and non-religious institutions around the world, it has drawn on the expertise of theologians, canon lawyers, psychologists and social scientists to provide a multidisciplinary approach to one of the most serious problems facing the Church today. A problem that Cardinal O’Malley of Boston, America’s “ground zero” of the sex abuse crisis, knows only too well…

“We are painfully aware of the many places in the world where the issues of clerical sexual abuse has not been adequately addressed and we hope that the Pontifical Commission and the outstanding work of the Centre will make a difference”.

The executive director of the Centre, Belgian professor Karlijn Demasure explained how the work will be scaled up to offer more research opportunities and, from 2016, a new diploma course at the Gregorian for students wanting to specialise in the safeguarding of minors and vulnerable people. The Centre’s president, German Jesuit Father Hans Zollner noted that while there has been successful cooperation with partners in 10 countries so far, it’s vital now to reach out to Churches and religious organisations in countries where there is still no awareness, no education and no financial resources…

“We want to go there, where there is little or nothing and to do this in a culturally sensitive way….you have to know not only the language of the place, but also the language of the heart of the place where we go to….”

The Centre is seeking new partnerships with academic institutions to further critical research and to pioneer new ways of working with parishes, dioceses and national Church bodies to become a model of safeguarding and child protection for the wider society. Education in seminaries, training for new bishops and courses for those serving here in the Roman Curia are key parts of the programme. As is the question of the accountability of Church leaders to deal effectively with any priest or religious suspected of abusing people in his or her care. Cardinal Sean O’Malley again:

“Certainly one of the topics that the Pontifical Commission is dealing with is accountability and we’re currently working with theologians and canonists to come up with a concrete plan to put to the Holy Father….because obviously we are very concerned about the whole area of accountability” 

(from Vatican Radio)