(Vatican City) The most influential member of the Vatican body responsible for combating pedocrime in the Church has resigned with a bang, reigniting the debate on the effectiveness of this controversial body since its creation in 2014.
“The (pontifical commission for the protection of minors) has learned that Father Hans Zollner has asked to be relieved of his duties,” its president, American Cardinal Sean O’Malley, announced on Wednesday.
This resignation, officially justified by the recent appointment of the person concerned to other functions – he is now a consultant for the diocese of Rome on questions of the fight against sexual assault -, was accepted on March 14 by the pope “with his deepest thanks for his many years of service,” the cardinal said.
Father Zollner, a Jesuit like Pope Francis, for his part used very undiplomatic language to denounce the dysfunctions within the commission. “During my work on the commission, I noticed issues that needed to be addressed urgently and which made it impossible for me to continue my mission,” he blasted in a statement posted on Twitter.
“The protection of children and vulnerable people must be at the heart of the mission of the Catholic Church”, but “in recent years my concern has grown over the way the commission…has acted to fulfill this mission”.
This recognized academic and close adviser to the pope criticizes in particular “the lack of clarity in the selection process of its members and its staff”, the “financial responsibility” deemed “inadequate”, and the “insufficient information and vague communication” surrounding the decision process.
“It was these structural and practical issues that led me to dissociate myself from the commission,” he explains.
Questioned by AFP, the president of the Italian association of victims Rete l’abuso, Francesco Zanardi, estimated that the Vatican made him pay the price for “his courageous declarations […] which go against the positions of the Church “.
“He was always very honest,” he said. “I would like to know if he resigned on his own or if he was forced to resign,” he added, deeming the pontifical commission “absolutely useless” at this stage.
Created in 2014, the latter, made up of religious and secular experts and integrated in 2022 into the Curia – the government of the Holy See – has been the subject of severe criticism in the past. In 2016 and 2017, two of its members, the Briton Peter Saunders and the Irish Marie Collins, had also slammed the door by denouncing the lack of cooperation in the Vatican.
Despite the measures taken by the pope since his election in 2013, such as the lifting of papal secrecy on the sexual violence of the clergy or the obligation to report cases, associations of victims believe that concrete actions to fight against this scourge remain insufficient. .