After 40 years of controversy there is still no academic certainty on how to ensure the safeguarding of the most vulnerable members of the church.
This is the conclusion of Fr Hans Zollner SJ, advisor to Pope Francis and director of the church’s central advisory body on the issues of abuse and safeguarding.
“After 40 years of public debate and public scandal in the media, we still don’t know what is effective in safeguarding measures, scientifically speaking. Nobody can tell you with any kind of precision what is really helpful and what brings down the numbers of new allegations in any institution. What works? Is it the guidelines, the educational pace, the media tension?”
Fr Zollner is the director of the IADC – the Church’s central ‘Safeguarding Institute‘ – now planning to fund research into safeguarding and the spiritual care of survivors of abuse.
“There is a spiritual wound in most survivors within the church, because they were believers and many still define themselves as believers. But we overlooked this spiritual wound and it is for me a big scandal. Where are they [victims], with their history of abuse and negligence and resistance by the church when it comes to living with a faith that has been bruised, that has been hurt, and sometimes, destroyed?”
The accountability of the church’s top administrators is another unresolved issue, according to the expert. There isn’t yet a consistent structure in place that allows the Catholic governing system to deal with bishops credibly accused of wrongdoing when it comes to abuse and/or cover-ups. Fr Zollner insists that “bishops in Poland have been removed, but bishops in Germany who are in the same boat haven’t.”
For Crux’s full fascinating interview with Fr Zollner, click here.