Don’t look now, but that special papal commission on sexual abuse has ceased to exist

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Dec 19, 2017

As of yesterday, the Pope’s special commission on sexual abuse formally ceased to exist.

The Commission for the Protection of Minors was established by Pope Francis in 2013, for a four-year term that began on December 17 of that year. That term has now officially expired.

Vatican-watchers fully expect that Pope Francis will extend the group’s mandate (or, at this point, renew it)—although nobody knows whether or not he will renew the terms of the current members. And the group wasn’t likely to hold meetings during the Christmas season anyway, so no real harm has been done by allowing the group’s formal authority to lapse.

Nevertheless, at a time when an Australian royal commission is lambasting the Catholic Church for its handling of abuse complaints, it’s noteworthy that the Vatican has not announced the timely renewal of the papal commission. Is this just one more sign of the chaotic management style now prevailing at the Holy See? Or is it, more ominously, another sign that despite all the promises about making the issue a top priority, when it comes to the actual working of the papal commission, nobody at the Vatican is paying attention?

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Dec. 26, 2017 12:42 PM ET USA

    Once the Pope formed this commission, it became a sign of the Church’s resolve on a very important topic. Whether it goes or stays now, a message will be sent to the Church and the world: either that it intends to remain highly vigilant, or that it hopes that the dust has settled enough to return to business as usual. I’d say that Rome can’t take a chance on sending the latter message. Now that it exists, the commission’s got to stay.

  • Posted by: dfp3234574 - Dec. 20, 2017 1:37 PM ET USA

    Dismantling this commission is a *good* thing. Enough, already! The Church has done everything in its power - more than any other institution on the planet - to root out this problem. The mere continuation of this commission would do nothing but give more fodder for those who attack the Church. This commission would accomplish absolutely nothing meaningful. The focus of the Church should be enhanced fidelity to Christ and His teachings, and nothing else.