Safeguarding: No Certainty on What Works – Vatican Expert

Jun 20, 2022 | 0 comments

Hans Zollner SJ

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.


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ACI’s Campaign for Lumen Gentium 37

The Promise of Synodality

What we have experienced of synodality so far gives ACI real hope that a longstanding structural injustice in the church may at last be acknowledged and overcome.

As all Irish bishops well know, the 'co-responsibility' they urge lay people to share - as numbers and energies of clergy decline - has been sabotaged time and again by canonical rules that deny representational authority and continuity to parish pastoral councils.  ACI's 2019 call for the immediate honouring of Lumen Gentium Article 37 becomes more urgent by the day and is supported by the following documents - also presented to the ICBC in October 2019.

The Common Priesthood of the People of God and the Renewal of the Church
It was Catholic parents and victims of clerical abuse who taught Catholic Bishops to prioritise the safeguarding of children in the church

Jesus as Model for the Common Priesthood of the People of God
It was for challenging religious hypocrisy and injustice that Jesus was accused and crucified. He is therefore a model for the common priesthood of the laity and for the challenging of injustice - in society and within the church.

A Suggested Strategy for the Recovery of the Irish and Western Catholic Church
Recovery of the church depends upon acknowledgment of the indispensable role of the common priesthood of the lay people of God and the explicit abandonment by bishops and clergy of paternalism and clericalism - the expectation of deference from lay people rather than honesty and integrity.

For the full story of ACI's campaign for the honouring of Article 37 of Lumen Gentium, click here.


"Come Holy Spirit, Renew Your wonders in this our day, as by a new Pentecost. Grant to Your Church that, being of one mind and steadfast in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and following the lead of blessed Peter, it may advance the reign of our Divine Saviour, the reign of truth and justice, the reign of love and peace. Amen."

Saint Pope John XXIII, 1962 - In preparation for Vatican Council II, 1962-65.

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