An Inside Look at the Papal Child Abuse Commission

NCR did an interview with Bill Kilgallon, a former member of the Pope’s Special Commission on Child Abuse (here). He was not reappointed to the Commission, but as is evident from the interview, he was not a troublemaker. When NCR asked him about the achievements of the commission, “he pointed first to the establishment of the body itself, which involved the bringing together of people from different professional backgrounds from all around the world to work as a team.” He sets the bar for achievements quite low. After four years, they more or less got acquainted. It will probably take less time for the reconstituted commission to form a team, since the leadership and much of the membership is unchanged.

The members of the commission split up into smaller working groups, which were responsible for whatever work got done. Thus the time and effort needed to have the 17 members of the commission “work as a team” seems unnecessary - the work was done by small work groups.

The greatest accomplishment, which Mr. Kilgallon called "a very significant piece of work" was the development of “templates” for use by localities. These templates were made public on December 6, 2016 when their website was launched. To the best of my knowledge, no group has claimed to use the templates to develop guidelines. To my eye, the templates seem vacuous, little more than slogans. You can judge for yourself here.

Despite the paucity of output from the commission, they had trouble dealing with the Vatican bureaucracy, especially the CDF (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith). The interview by NCR was anything but aggressive. The reporter lobbed softballs, but the former commission member seemed unable to do much with them. Perhaps that’s why he is no longer on the commission.

I saw nothing to change my opinion that the Commission was just window dressing, intended from the outset to do nothing but kill time until the furor over child abuse subsides. Apart from a number of embarrassing episodes, Pope Francis and the Vatican have done little if anything about the problem.


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