Wednesday 16 October 2019

Marie Collins: The Pope was honest when I quizzed him about abuse, but I despair after answers I was given

Marie Collins found the Pope was open to questions. Photo: Justin Farrelly
Marie Collins found the Pope was open to questions. Photo: Justin Farrelly

Marie Collins

I was one of eight survivors who met Pope Francis on Saturday in the papal nunciature. We were there to say what we wanted and needed to say. He was even-handed with everybody and equally interested in hearing from all of us about our experiences.

He wasn't familiar with the detail of the Magdalene Laundries, the mother and baby homes, and the institutional schools. The survivors were very forthright in telling him exactly what went on in all those places and making it clear what they wanted him to do and say. As he listened, he asked for details and for clarifications.

Pope Francis was honest with me. I asked some questions, but I felt I got disappointing answers. I asked him about accountability for bishops and the accountability tribunal proposed by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

He didn't try to fudge the issue. Currently, there is no central accountability tribunal in the Vatican as envisioned by the Commission in 2015. But Pope Francis felt there is accountability; bishops who are found to have covered up are being held accountable through internal processes and if found guilty, he removes them.

He didn't see the need for any central accountability process. But my point was that people are not being told that bishops who cover up are being removed, and they are being allowed to resign and walk away unscathed. I told him that all we see is someone resigning and there is no sign they are being found guilty of anything; it just looks as if they are being allowed to walk away and removing them in that way is not transparent. He agreed it should be more transparent.

I was very disappointed that he felt that local processes are working. That is not what I was hoping for, not what I was looking for, and not what many people were looking for. It also shows that we are not going to get any universal step in regard to accountability in the near future.

I have highlighted the resistance in the Curia to the work of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. But if the Pope feels content with the processes in place, then he obviously doesn't feel any resistance. He didn't express any feeling of being resisted in any way to me, so that was also very disappointing.

We spoke about the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, and Pope Francis told me he is happy with the commission now it is fully integrated into the Curia. He said he felt that this was a positive development and that it would now do good work.

That was hugely disappointing for me because I thought that the whole point of the commission was that it was to be independent and to work and answer directly to him, not the Curia. I despair.

For me there was no ambivalence in meeting Pope Francis on Saturday and attending the #standfortruth rally on Sunday, organised by Colm O'Gorman.

It was not an anti-Pope protest but a solidarity event with survivors - to stand up and be counted if there was any effort to airbrush survivors out of the Pope's visit or the World Meeting of Families. It was also to show that survivors are still here, and we are here in numbers, and we have support. To show survivors wouldn't be ignored.

I believe it is so important that survivors are heard and seen and have a voice - we want to be heard.

I got to meet the Pope and say what I wanted to say. I may not have got the answers I wanted - all you can do is ask the question, and I did.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News