Pope to Vatican commission against abuses: 'It is important to not stop moving forward'

The Pontifical Commision for the Protection of Minors held their first official meeting with Pope Francis following Father Hans Zollner's resignation. He was one of the founding members of the commision.

During the meeting, the pope touched on the harsh reality of the effects of sexual abuse both on the Church and its members.

"The sexual abuse crisis is particularly serious for the Church because it undermines her ability to fully embrace and bear witness to God’s liberating presence," Pope Francis said. "The failure to act properly to stop this evil and to assist its victims has sullied our witness to God’s love."

Ten years after the commission's founding, Pope Francis challenged members to follow three principles as a part of the “spirituality of reparation.” He said that, by giving hope, helping with healing and approaching people with kindness, the Church can help make amends.

"Now is the time to repair the damage done to previous generations and to those who continue to suffer," he said. "This Easter season is a sign that a new time is being prepared for us, a new springtime, made fruitful by the work and tears we share with those who have suffered. That is why it is important that we never stop pressing ahead."

Just two months prior, Father Zollner published his reasons for leaving the commission. He described an alleged lack of clarity in committee roles and a lack of transparency in both decision-making and financial management.

"Starting in May 2022, on four occasions, I wrote to the leadership of the commission the concerns I mentioned in my statement," Father Zollner said. "I received no response."

Cardinal O'Malley, president of the committee, responded with a statement saying he was “surprised, disappointed and strongly disagreed” with Father Zollner's claims. But the cardinal also expressed their shared view of protecting children and vulnerable adults as part of the Church's heart.

The Pontifical Commision for the Protection of Minors is meant to be an advisory body to the Holy Father for the protection of minors and vulnerable adults. It was established in 2014.