CWS member Sara Parvis has written a letter to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors which was originally shared via the Catholic Women Speak Facebook page and can now be shared with the wider public through our website.

Please read, and if you feel compelled to, sign and share widely amongst your networks.

See below for a response from Emer McCarthy, the secretary to the Commission. We will update as any further communications come through.

The letter is still open to sign

With thanks,

Catholic Women Speak.

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

We are a group of Catholic women from all walks of life, lay and religious, young and old, theologians and pastoral practitioners, survivors of abuse and their supporters. We wrote to you on a previous occasion about the importance of the Commission listening to survivors, and were very pleased to see your emphasis on this in the press release from your latest meeting: ‘It is crucial to bring the voice of the victims to the leaders of the church to make sure everyone understands how important it is for the church to give responses in a rapid and correct manner to every situation of abuse in whatever way it is manifested’.

We are profoundly concerned that in the media furore surrounding the revelation of further details of clerical abuse around the world, and the power-play it has unleashed, the intelligent voices of informed survivors will be drowned out. With this in mind, we urge you as strongly as we can to make sure that the recent questions put by Marie Collins to the Church be given a public answer by the Commission. You have surely seen them, but we repeat them here:

1. Why are the strongest possible safeguarding policies, with the strength of canon law behind them, not being implemented in every diocese and congregation around the world? The USA is the only country to have a policy which is normative but every child is equally precious, where he or she lives should not decide whether they will be safe or left at risk of harm.

2. Why are there no robust transparent structures in place to hold accountable those in leadership who protect a predator? These structures should hold all fully accountable with strong sanctions for the guilty – dismissal from their post, removal of their titles and privileges and if necessary laicization.

3. How can the Church on the one hand claim to be on the side of the victims/survivors while at the same time fighting against the removal of statutes of limitation in various countries. If removed or dropped more accused could be criminally prosecuted and if guilty the victims/survivors receive justice? The actions are contrary to the words – why?

4. Why is real zero tolerance not in place globally to ensure any priest who sexually abuses a child is removed from the church immediately. If there is no canon law provision in existence to do this then why not bring in a new law?

5. Why is the Pontifical Secret used in cases of abusing priests’ canon law trials, this restricts victims/survivors legal rights to information, files etc. The Pontifical Secret was not intended to be used in his way. A year ago the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors recommended its removal from these cases but it is still in place. Why?

This last question would seem to us to be the most important of all. The Pontifical Secret is the greatest of all barriers to trust between priests and people on the one hand, and bishops and the Curia on the other. It means that we have no idea whether the Curia is protecting our children or not; whether it has our interests at heart or not; whether its trials are fair or not. We never know the charges or the evidence that are brought against abusers or those who protect abusers; we do not even know, when someone is found guilty, what he has been found guilty of. Frequently even the trial itself is a secret. This leaves good and decent men and women unable to say what they know because they are bound to secrecy and so unable to defend themselves from charges of cover-up; and on the other hand leaves abusers in place and trusted, as we have seen with Cardinal McCarrick and others. It seems to us that it is simply not possible to restore the laity’s trust in the episcopacy on the subject of the abuse of minors without a clear and public undertaking not to use the pontifical secret in cases involving the abuse of minors or their cover-up, or at least to make the charges, the verdict and the sentence public in cases where the perpetrator is found guilty. It seems to us that the Hierarchy really does owe this to the faithful, and especially to all Catholic parents and guardians.

Once again, we ask this in the name of the One who said ‘If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea,’ our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Yours faithfully, and in hope and charity,

Your sisters in Christ: Franchesca Isabel Alamo (Houston, TX, USA), Alicja Baranowska (Belgium), Olive Barnes (UK), Tina Beattie (UK), Donna Becher (WV, USA), Therese Craine Bertsch (NY), Susanne Andrea Birke, Marion Boden, Julett M. Broadnax (USA), Margaret Callinan (Australia), Shirley Carmody (California, USA), Paula Carthy (Ireland), Catherine Cavanagh (Canada), Lucie Derom (France), Mary Donnelly (Ireland), Carla Marie Eble, Kathleen Faller (NH, USA), Cait Finnegan-Grenier (USA), Anabel Flaherty (Iowa, USA), Kate Fortune (Ireland), Margaret Morag Gardham (UK), Clare Gardner (England, UK), Alison Gelder (UK), Chantal Götz (Liechtenstein), Nontando Hadebe (Southern Africa), Bridget Wilson Hall (UK), Mary Hanrahan (Scotland, UK), Anne Hansen (USA), Jo Hart (Australia), Debbie Hewson (UK), Jenny Holt (UK), Kathleen Spears Hopkins (USA), Katie Humphrey (UK), Annamaria Jensen (Australia), Adrienne Keller (USA), Mary Kennan (UK), Clare Keogh, Teri Neumann Korbee (OH, USA), Antonia Lacey (UK), Janet Lash (UK), Anne Leonard (USA), Irena Mangone (Australia), Annemarie McAllister (UK), Marj McDaid (England, UK), Sinead McMahon (Ireland), Joanna Malecka (Poland), Irena Maria Mangone, Martha Núñez Melgar (USA/Perú), Margaret Mary Morran (Scotland, UK), Jean Mulrooney (USA), Susan Durden O’Brien (UK), Jennifer O’Malley, Melanie Newbould (UK), Cheryl Ortega (CA USA), Jennifer Palin, Sara Parvis (Scotland, UK), Peggy Patrick (USA), Sheila Peiffer, Pat Pierce, Jordan Pullicino (UK), Renate Rothwell (UK), Carolyn Nancy Servoss (Kalamazoo, MI, USA), Carolyn Shalhoub (USA), Ann Smith (England, UK), Susan Sparacino, Scilla Stack (Australia), Patricia Stoat (UK), Dr Jacqui Stewart, Catherine Stringer (UK), Julie Farley Sutton (Canton, OH USA), Therese Terndrup (OH, USA), Margaret Susan Thompson, Kathryn Turbitt (USA), Virginia Watkins (USA), Rebecca Bratten Weiss (USA), Joan Wright (USA), Pat Woodbury (USA), Scilla Stack (Australia), Carla Eble (USA), Irim Sarwar (UK), Celia Wexler (USA), Renate Rothwell (UK), Katie Humphrey (UK), Elizabeth Thomas (UK), Moira Potier de la Morandiere (UK), Patricia Byrne (Ireland)

Response received 20th September 2018

Prot. N301/2018

Dear Sara,

Once again allow me to begin by thanking you for your email and for your careful consideration of the current situation in the Church and how it effects those who have been abused and the efforts to prevent abuse.
Apologies for the delay in my response, I hope you can understand that we have been a little busy.
I am going to share the points you raise and the questions you pose with our group of experts dedicated to working with survivors and with our group of experts who study safeguarding guidelines and norms. They will seriously consider them as they continue to explore the areas of safeguarding to be improved.
I cannot guarantee that their response will be immediate as the Commission receives many emails and letters – particularly in the current period – and we are doing our level best to respond as best we can.
Thank you again for your shared concern and the pertinent issues you raise,
With kind regards