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Another aim is to “integrate safeguarding in education and formation and empower religious leaders that come in contact with children and vulnerable adults” so they can better identify and prevent abuse, he says. Mezmur himself was part of a third group focused on safeguarding guidelines and norms around measures such as prevention and reporting, particularly within the bounds of canon law, to balance transparency, confidentiality, the rights of victims in penal processes, and accountability. The Commission’s efforts likely contributed to the Pope’s declaration in 2019 that the “pontifical secret” — the highest level of confidentiality in the church — would not apply to sexual abuse cases.
In the last four years, the Commission discharged its duties through three working groups with interrelated goals. First, to work with victims of clerical sexual abuse to “explore and develop different methodologies, such as the Survivors Advisory Panel, to promote healing and reconciliation by actively including their testimonies and learnings in the development as well as implementation of policy.”

“Quite a lot of our recommendations are aimed to have an impact at the local level,” Mezmur says. “The expectation to have almost all initiatives at the Vatican level is misplaced. The Commission is engaging with various stakeholders such as survivors of sexual abuse, the bishops conferences, and dicasteries to strengthen effective and important methods of collaboration, with a particular emphasis on prevention.”

Some lament that changes within a 2,000-year-old institution can be slow — and there is no shortage of news reports of sexual abuse by priests and accusations of cover-ups around the world, Mezmur concedes. “But I have had the opportunity to closely follow the actions of the Holy Father on this issue, and even had an audience with him on a few occasions, and it is patently clear that he is dedicated and is providing the much-needed leadership and providing workable solutions — and is making progress. A more recent good example of leadership is the Holy’s Father’s decision to place the Pontifical Commission within the Roman Curia, with a view to allow for a more proactive safeguarding agenda as a sign for all to see of the Church’s care for the vulnerable and commitment to those who have been most grievously harmed.

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