Just as some Catholics were wondering--with good reason--whether Pope Francis was tip-toeing around the sexual-abuse crisis, the Vatican has anounced that he will establish a commission on the protection of minors. The idea, which came from his Council of Cardinals, was explained today by one of its members, Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston.
The Commission will study present programmes in place for the protection of children; formulate suggestions for new initiatives on the part of the Curia, in collaboration with bishops, Episcopal conferences, religious superiors and conferences of religious superiors.
What's more, the commission will name the people who will be responsible for implementing these new initiatives. The scope of the commission's work will be expansive. According to the Vatican, it will include coming up with guidelines for protecting kids, developing educational programs for children and adults who work with them, putting in place formation strategies for seminarians and priests alike, establishing codes of professional conduct, finding better ways to determine a man's suitability for the priesthood, conducting more thorough background checks, "reporting of crimes, compliance with civil law, communications regarding clergy declared guilty, pastoral care for victims and their families, spiritual assistance, mental health services, collaboration with experts."
In other words, there is no part of the sexual-abuse crisis that this commission won't examine. In his apostolic exhortation, Pope Francis promised to decentralize papal authority. This commission seems designed to re-centralize authority on this matter to Rome. Given the way local bishops conferences have been handling the scandal, in this case centralized authority may be just what the doctor ordered.