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Pope appoints Australian woman to child protection panel

Pope Francis

Protection priority: Pope Francis has expanded the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Minors.
Photo: CNS/Paul Haring

POPE Francis has named an Australian woman among new appointments to his papal commission on child protection.

Founder and now retired director of CatholicCare, in Wollongong, NSW, Kathleen McCormack, was among those who the Vatican named as new members of the commission on December 17.

CatholicCare provides essential social services and counselling.

Starting in the 1990s, Ms McCormack also became a vocal advocate for victims of sexual abuse. She helped report priests and perpetrators to the police and urged the Church and Catholic organisations to implement child protection programs.

The Commission for the Protection of Minors, which Pope Francis established one year ago, has added four more women and four men from five continents to the now-17-member body.

One of the new members is Peter Saunders, who is the chief executive officer of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC), which he founded nearly two decades ago in the United Kingdom to help other survivors find support. He was one of six abuse survivors who spoke with Pope Francis in a private meeting at the Vatican on July 7.

Others joining the commission are:

• Krysten Winter-Green, an expert in theology, human development, social work and pastoral psychology, who has served in a number of dioceses in the United States. Born in New Zealand, Ms Winter-Green served as Cardinal Sean O’Malley’s chancellor when he was bishop of St Thomas in the American Virgin Islands, and she worked for him in Fall River and Boston. According to biographical information provided by the Vatican, her work in the field of child abuse includes “forensics, assessment and treatment of priest and clergy offenders”.

• Bill Kilgallon, national director of the Office for Professional Standards of the Catholic Church in New Zealand, which oversees the Church’s response to accusations of abuse against clergy or religious. Mr Kilgallon was previously a member of a review team into the protection of children and vulnerable adults in the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and in 2008, he was appointed as the first chair of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission of England and Wales, which was responsible for setting policies and procedures for the Catholic Church and monitoring compliance by dioceses and religious congregations.

• Secretary-general of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference Precious Blood Sister Hermenegild Makoro. She has served as provincial superior of the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood and had been associate secretary-general secretary of the Pretoria-based bishops’ conference.

• Religious Sisters of Charity Sister Kayula Lesa who works at the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection in Zambia. She has been active in the fight against human trafficking and supporting human rights. She has written on child protection and refugee rights and has served as a member of the African Forum for Church Social Teaching.

• Gabriel Dy-Liacco is a licensed counsellor and an assistant professor at Regent University’s School of Psychology and Counselling in Virginia. Born in the Philippines, Mr Dy-Liacco is “an adult and adolescent psychotherapist and pastoral counsellor for various mental health concerns” including victims and perpetrators of abuse, according to the Vatican.

• Fr Luis Manuel Ali Herrera is the head of the department of psychology and a professor of pastoral psychology at the major seminary of Bogota archdiocese, Colombia.

Pope Francis, who has called for zero tolerance and complete accountability for the “despicable” crime of abuse, has said he wanted the commission to help the Church develop better policies and procedures for protecting minors. The commission is also meant to lay out a pastoral approach to helping victims and prevent future abuse as well as focus on priestly formation, accountability and reaching out to survivors.

The commission is headed by Cardinal O’Malley; the commission secretary is United States Father Robert Oliver, a Boston priest and canon lawyer who worked on the abuse crisis in the Church there.

The new papal commission members join Marie Collins, an Irish survivor of clerical abuse, and six – mostly European – experts in mental health, civil and Church law, and moral theology.

The next plenary session of the commission will be held in the Vatican from February 6-8.


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