Pope Francis’ latest appointment to a commission designed to fight sexual abuse of minors may have an effect in shaping the upcoming Vatican office also dedicated to combatting abuse. “Delicta Graviora” are serious crimes in the Church, and they include grave offenses against morality: the sexual abuse of a minor by a cleric, or the acquisition, possession, or distribution of child pornography by a cleric. A Delicta Graviora office is to be set up within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican announced May 19, also revealing that Archbishop José Mollaghan of Rosario had been appointed as responsible of the new office. He will serve in this position from Buenos Aires. Pope Francis’ decision to establish a special commission for “Delicta Graviora” shows his commitment to tackling abuse on a global level. On Sept. 10, the Pontiff made another step forward in this commitment by announcing the appointment of Boston priest Msgr. Robert J. Oliver to the post of Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the protection of Minors. Msgr. Oliver has spent years helping the U.S. Church implement reforms to prevent and respond to abuse of minors. “The Congregation will be continuing working on cases, and we will be working on protection of children,” he explained to CNA Sept. 10. Msgr. Oliver already took part in the last meeting of the commission, held July 6. He has also been called to help Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston — who heads the commission — to enlarge the group’s membership to include Asia, Africa, and South America, as well as to draft the statutes of the commission itself. The statutes will also deal with the relation between the commission and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where Msgr. Oliver served as promoter of justice, a position also called the “Vatican’s public prosecutor.” Furthermore, the statutes will clarify the collaboration between the commission and the soon-to-be-establish office for the Delicta Graviora in the disciplinary section of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Msgr. Oliver’s contribution to this process includes his expertise in canon law and experience as a former official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which will be useful in helping to shape a balanced distribution of competences and responsibilities among the commission, the congregation, and the new office. In doing this, he will work closely with Fr. Robert Geisinger, S.J., appointed as his successor at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. General procurator of the Jesuit Curia, Fr. Geisinger is considered a strong Canon Law expert, able to keep a low profile and to work hard. He was one of the organizers of the Gregorian-run symposium, “Toward the Healing and Renewal,” which took place in 2011. The membership of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors includes many of the figures from that symposium, including Jesuit priest Fr. Hans Zollner and abuse victim Mary Collins. In this way, Pope Francis is harvesting the fruits of the symposium, and at the same time he is carrying on the so-called American model for response to abuses, represented by Cardinal O’Malley and Msgr. Oliver. Cardinal O’Malley organized the pope’s first meeting with victims of abuse from England, Ireland, and Germany at the Vatican in July. The next meeting of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors is scheduled for October.
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