ZOLLNER: FRANCIS’S KEY OVERSIGHT AND COMPLIANCE COMMISSION HAS FAILED.
MARCH 29, 2023. This morning, Fr. Hans Zollner, the chief architect of Pope Francis’s clergy sex abuse policy, announced his resignation from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. The Commission, established in 2014, is the centerpiece of Pope Francis’s response to the global clergy sexual abuse catastrophe.
The Commission’s mandate, according to Zollner, was to ensure “responsibility, compliance, accountability, and transparency.” After nine years in the Commission, Zollner has confirmed through his resignation statement that the Commission has failed on all four counts. Zollner’s resignation clearly signifies that the Commission, and therefore Pope Francis’s entire abuse management strategy, is unsalvageable.
Yesterday, Ending Clergy Abuse (ECA) along with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) sent an open letter to Zollner sharing some of his concerns and calling on him to urge Pope Francis to implement a true ‘zero tolerance law’ that would remove abusive clerics and bishops who conceal abuse from ministry.
On March 25th, Pope Francis announced updated recommendations to Vos estis lux mundi, his suggested instructions to bishops housing and managing sex offenders in their respective dioceses. Vos estis lux mundi is not a universal and binding Church law. “Worse,” say survivor organizations, “it is misleading to say or suggest that it is.”
The formation of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors resulted from decades of clergy abuse survivor activism around the world. Pope Francis promised survivors that this Commission would end clergy abuse. The Pope has broken his promise, and Zollner’s resignation and reasons for leaving confirm this.
Pope Francis is convening a worldwide synod this October which will determine the future of the Catholic Church. Alarmingly, the Church’s greatest catastrophe, widespread rape and sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults, is not on the agenda.
This means Pope Francis does not see a ‘zero tolerance law’ for abuse and its institutional concealment as part of the future of the Catholic Church.