ROUND TABLE DISCUSSION
Question Around the Table:
What’s Your Response to the Resignation of Marie Collins from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors?
FYI: Marie Collins’s statement on resigning, as posted on Twitter, is here.
I was so sad to hear of Marie’s resignation from the Commission. Her voice was powerful, steadfast and strong. I can only imagine her personal sacrifice in serving on the Commission—a sacrifice of self to help others by tapping into her own suffering to make change in our universal Church. Despite her frustrations with the Vatican bureaucracy, and with much business of the Commission remaining unfinished, I hope she is comforted by knowing her work inspired me and, I imagine, many other survivors of abuse by clergy who have hope for a better future within our Church. Marie opened a door of possibilities. Her work has made a difference. I am happy to hear she will continue in an educational capacity. I wish her the best.
How did I feel when I heard this news? Disgusted and determined. Why? Disgusted because this selfless, dedicated, compassionate, holy woman, pledged, when she took on this role to speak for us, and her words fell on deaf ears, just like ours have for a very long time. Or, heard but dismissed. What are the reasons? We can speculate. Maybe the hearers do not understand us or fear our intentions. Maybe what we must say embarrasses them and causes them great pain. Maybe they don’t understand the healing process, or believe in it. All these reasons, any I can imagine, are sad, more than sad.
So, Marie Collins goes to the head of the survivor line and speaks the truth. Now, her resignation provokes the question: are these positions on this committee “fillers“ (i.e., look appropriate) but really just “space-holders”(i.e., seen but not meant to be heard)? Do you really think Pope Francis had this in mind? From where I sit, it seems the Commission is letting us, victim/survivors, down and defying the Pope’s intentions. We survivors are not frosting on a burnt cake!
I find solace that Marie Collins agreed to stay on in her educational role. Maybe those interested in learning will come openly attentive to hear her words. It is very sad that, after so many of her years of dedication to us and our Church, her words were dismissed.
Yet, her not being heard, like we have not been heard, fuels my determination to keep encouraging other voices to come into the circle and tell their stories to help others heal and find their new, safe place in our Church. It’s a group effort. What Marie Collins could not do alone, we all are helping each other do by listening to one another and teaching each other a way to well-being, a way home to the Eucharist in peace.
Thank you, Marie Collins, for your steadfast faith in us and our Church.
Marie Collins from Ireland is the first clergy abuse survivor to be chosen by Pope Francis to be on the Pontifical Commission for Protection of Minors. She was chosen for her valuable work in Protection and Prevention of abuse in Catholic Churches in Ireland.
She recently resigned from the Pontifical Commission for Protection of Minors on Ash Wednesday after three years of service. She resigned because there were roadblocks in implementation of programs and policies which were approved by Pope Francis. The biggest problem was the lack of response of the Vatican to address the letters written by clergy abuse survivors. All letters sent to the Vatican by abuse survivors were supposed to receive a response from them, but it was not done. Changing old ways of thinking is one of the most frustrating challenges in implementing new policy and practice. Despite her resignation from the Pontifical Commission for Protection of Minors, Marie Collins remains very much respected by the members and will continue to assist in implementing educational programs with the Commission. Although progress is slow, the Pontifical Commission for Protection of Minors have made positive changes in the world.
Marie Collins has impacted the world and my life because she was the first person in the Catholic Church to listen to me and actually help me.
I first contacted Marie Collins through the social media after reading an article in the Catholic Register about her being chosen by Pope Francis to be on a special Commission to address clergy abuse. For years I would make rosaries and write letters to every bishop I could, asking them for the Catholic Church to remember clergy abuse survivors in a yearly mass. I would receive letters back from them stating that they pray for me, but they never addressed my request for the church to remember clergy abuse survivors in their prayer intentions. I was very frustrated and depressed but never gave up hope. When I finally got in touch with Marie Collins, she brought my request to the Pontifical Commission for Protection of Minors for the Catholic Churches all around the world to offer a Day of Prayer to remember clergy abuse survivors at mass once a year. Pope Francis approved my request on September 2016, and now Catholic Churches all over the world have a Day of Prayer for Clergy Abuse survivors once a year so they will never be forgotten in the prayers of the Church. I will always be thankful to Marie Collins, the Pontifical Commission for Protection of Minors, and Pope Francis for making a positive impact in the world for clergy abuse survivors. Thank you Marie for being a courageous advocate and voice for clergy abuse survivors.
It was with great sadness I learned Marie Collins was leaving the Pontifical Commission dealing with clergy abuse. Like so many of us survivors of CSA she has given up.
I remember how many times I was disappointed with people and things in the Church before: When I found out the Archdiocese of St. Louis knew my perpetrator had been abusing boys for decades I was shocked. When I found out they also knew he was embezzling money in addition to molesting boys and did nothing I was mystified. When I found out the letter of apology I received from then Archbishop Raymond Burke was exactly the same letter another victim received and that the only difference was the name it was addressed to I was crushed. That letter of apology meant a lot to me. Finding out it was a form letter taught me a lesson.
That lesson was to never again let anything the Church did or didn’t do rip my soul apart. I felt back then the Church only paid lip service to caring about victims. I felt, as did others I know, that the Church just wanted us to go away.
With time I learned other lessons. I realized some bishops truly do care, while others seem not to, and some just don’t. Some see us as the enemy because we dare ask for justice. I learned the majority of priests does care, but many of them don’t know what to do to help. For example, telling us to forgive might make them feel better, but for many of the maimed and wounded hearing that only makes things worse.
When there’s no apology, no attempt to correct things, it seems like a slap in the face to tell us to forgive. Many say “No justice, no forgiveness.” I don’t echo that, because I knew when I started this journey fifteen years ago that the Church moves at a glacial pace. And, the problem is, how the problem is addressed (or not addressed) varies from diocese to diocese, archdiocese to archdiocese.
It’s taken me years to get over the hurt the hierarchy has caused, but I refuse to let anything or anyone come between me and Christ. I know in my heart Jesus and Mary understand. I will continue to minister to survivors of abuse through the Maria Goretti Network, and I pray one day I’m pray that one day, after not giving up, I’m in heaven with Jesus where finally I will find peace and justice I may never see in this life.
“It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” (Phil 2:16) I often use running metaphors to help explain complex situations, such as the departure of Marie Collins. In large marathon races, there are “pace groups,” led by experienced runners who carry aloft a sign with the goal finish time. So, long as you keep within sight of the leader, you are assured of finishing in the stated time. Marie Collins was like this sign bearer. Those of us in ministry are like the running pack. One of our leaders is gone. Now what? Run alone? Set my own pace? Give up? In a way, we are all running our own races, at our own pace. And we will not stop running. We continue for survivors. We continue for ourselves.
It takes astounding courage to do the many things Marie Collins has. She has contended with her own victimization and recovery — and faith. She has served the Church with regard to child protection without first experiencing the organizational (sometimes halting) progress in the US Catholic Church. She has given of herself to serve victims and their loved ones and all harmed by abuse in our Church; this is a difficult service beyond collective child-protection policy-making because it is a process meted out in one-by-one encounters and long-lived faith relationships. In all this and so much we don’t know, Marie Collins courageously gives of herself, and her own suffering. She is an inspiration.
My attention was first drawn to Marie Collins last year when she openly affirmed a fellow survivor on the Pontifical Commission whose frustration with slow-moving reforms hit a boiling point. While not abandoning him in his struggle, she meanwhile continued to work for change within the Church. Walking that line took leadership. It took integrity. It earned my respect.
By resigning now, Marie earns my respect, too. She seems to be setting a boundary on waiting for change in formal channels. Bishops for decades have faced similar decisive junctures with regard to child abusers. This dilemma lies at the core of the crisis: at what point does patience and mercy become enabling and complicit? I respect Marie’s doubtless difficult decision to set a limit on the latter.
By staying to educate others, however, Marie exemplifies how to set boundaries without severing connections. She is dusting sand from her sandals, as it were, in one area without abandoning the good struggle in the Church collective.
It is precisely because we each work out salvation one by one that Marie’s work teaching, indeed any of us survivors of clergy abuse in any relationship, can seek and serve truth as a salvific choice. And, as individuals learn from Marie now and in the future, they will be ever more clear on how to make the right choice about child protection. Others will accept the challenge to reconnect with the faith of their childhood. And, Marie, a wounded healer, may yet change the world, one heart at a time.
For the full issue in which this article appears, click here.