World’s leading coalition of clergy abuse victims forms historic collaboration with Catholic Church’s top anti-abuse experts

The two sides meet for three days in Rome to create a new “zero tolerance” norm for abusive clergy

They will jointly present their proposal in September

Photo: Simone Padovani/Ending Clergy Abuse


For the first time in the history of the clergy sex abuse crisis, a global network of clergy abuse survivors is joining forces with the church’s top anti-abuse experts to create a new “zero tolerance” mandate in the Catholic Church.

Leaders of Ending Clergy Abuse (ECA) met privately last week with Father Hans Zollner, SJ, director of the Institute of Anthropology (IADC) at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and Monsignor Peter Beer, IADC’s head of research and development.

For three days, from 6-8 June, the leaders of ECA and the IADC worked together to create a proposal for new policies and laws, including the permanent removal of clergy sex abusers from ministry.

Gemma Hickey, president of ECA’s board of directors and a survivor of clergy sexual abuse, said, “This is the first time in the history of the clergy abuse catastrophe that an international coalition of survivor organizations and their advocates has joined with the leading Catholic Church institute for the safeguarding of children to endorse a binding and universal zero tolerance mandate for sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. As a survivor, I never thought I would see the day that Church representatives would join survivors in demanding an end to abuse and cover-up.

ECA and the IADC included many partners into the conversation including: Bishop Luis Manuel Alí Herrera, secretary for the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors; Anne Barrett Doyle of; Dean P. Ulrich Rhode, SJ, of the Faculty of Canon Law at the Pontifical Gregorian University; Dr. Martin Pusch, an attorney of Westpfahl Spilker Wastl; Australian Ambassador to the Holy See Chiara Porro; representatives of the United States embassy to the Holy See and other embassies; and other legal consultants.

After three days of presentation and discussion, the groups were able to form consensus around an endorsement of sweeping changes to Catholic Church law, policy, and practice including: permanent removal from ministry for any cleric found to have abused a child or vulnerable adult; the creation of an independent agency with authority to conduct investigations and issue public recommendations and reports; mandated transparency throughout the process; and severe penalties for any bishop or Catholic Church official who fails to abide by this policy.

The group will continue to finalize the official text of the joint proposal throughout the summer with the intention of presenting it before the final phase of Pope Francis’s Synod on Synodality in October.

The proposal, guided by internationally recognized principles of the best interests of children, youth, and vulnerable people, is in line with the key recommendations to the Holy See from the 2014 United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), state-sponsored investigations into clergy sexual abuse, and international human rights organizations.