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Vatican approves statutes for papal commission for protecting minors

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Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston, head of the Pontifical Commission for Child Protection, speaks at a news conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome Feb. 16. At right is Sheila Hollins, professor emeritus of psychiatry of disability at St. George's University of London. The news conference was held to officiall inaugurate the launch of the Center for Child Protection, (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

By Carol Glatz Catholic News Service 

VATICAN CITY — The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors received temporary approval of its first set of statutes.

U.S. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston — one of the pope’s top cardinal advisers and president of the pontifical commission — had submitted a draft of the statutes, which were approved “by mandate of the supreme pontiff” April 21 by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state.

The Vatican released a copy of the approved statutes May 8. Their approval is good for three years.

The four-page document outlines the structure, nature, activity and goals of the commission, which Pope Francis established in December 2013.

The commission, made up of 17 members in addition to the president and secretary, is “an autonomous institution” within the Holy See and serves as “an advisory body at the service of the Holy Father.”

Because “the protection of minors is of paramount importance,” the statutes said, the commission’s main purpose is to make recommendations to the pope on how best to promote “local responsibility in the particular churches for the protection of all minors and vulnerable adults.”

When drafting proposals, the commission will consult with staff and offices in charge of child protection at parishes, national bishops’ conferences and religious institutes as well as other Vatican offices when appropriate.

The president, secretary and members — who are all appointed by the pope — can serve for a three-year term, which can be renewed, the statutes said.

The commission will meet for a plenary assembly twice a year, including “by videoconference.”

Initiatives and recommendations on child protection will be drawn up by temporary nonmember working groups that “examine a specific theme thoroughly” and submit proposals to commission members for approval.

The working groups’ draft proposals will be shared with members “through electronic means,” it added.

After observing the present norms for the next three years, the commission can present any changes it recommends before the pope approves the commission’s permanent statutes.

The commission is currently made up of two survivors of abuse as well as experts in law, psychology, counseling, child protection and other related fields. The commission secretary is U.S. Father Robert W. Oliver, a Boston priest and canon lawyer, who served the Vatican’s chief prosecutor of sex abuse crimes.

Posted May 8, 2015

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