VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Vatican has launched a website as part of its efforts to protect children from clerical sexual abuse and promote healing and reconciliation.
It's the first time that the Vatican has published resources and documents on the issue, and the site is sponsored by the commission set up by Pope Francis to protect minors.
“It is very important for the commission to have a means to communicate,” Marie Collins, an Irish abuse survivor and commission member, told Religion News Service on Tuesday (Dec. 6).
“I hope eventually people will also use it to communicate with the commission.”
The commission was established by the pope in 2013 and is headed by Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley.
The new website includes a template for local churches seeking to protect minors from clerical sex abuse, guidelines on how to handle complaints and options for education and healing.
It also provides news and information about the commission in an easily accessible format and promotes greater sharing of information within the church.
“Awareness is so important, anything that encourages people to come forward and seek help,” Collins said. “This is very important to me as a survivor.”
The site is in English and will eventually have versions in Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese. It includes contact details – an email address and telephone number — for the commission, which hopes to promote education and awareness, especially in Africa, Latin America and Asia, where the problem has not received as much attention.
"It is very important to the commission that we are as transparent as possible," Emer McCarthy, coordinator of the project for the commission, told CNN. "Our members want people to know that they are doing their level best to carry out the commission of the Holy Father."
When the pope created the commission he tasked it with advising him on effective policies for the protection of minors and vulnerable adults as well as educational programs for all who are involved in this work.
He has spoken out against clerical abuse several times and in February 2015 said the church needed to rid itself of the “scourge” of sex abuse.
“Families need to know that the Church is making every effort to protect their children,” he said in a letter to bishops at the time. “They should also know that they have every right to turn to the church with full confidence, for it is a safe and secure home."
The body has 17 active members, both religious and lay, men and women, from a variety of backgrounds and from every continent.
(Josephine McKenna covers the Vatican for RNS)