The Commission’s specific task is to propose to me the most opportune initiatives for protecting minors and vulnerable adults, in order that we may do everything possible to ensure that crimes such as those which have occurred are no longer repeated in the Church. The Commission is to promote local responsibility in the particular Churches, uniting their efforts to those of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the protection of all children and vulnerable adults.

Pope Francis, establishing the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors

22 March 2014

Our Safeguarding Journey

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In March 2022, Pope Francis promulgates the long awaited Apostolic Constitution Praedicate Evangelium, reforming the governance and structures of the Roman Curia.

In article 78, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (Tutela Minorum) is given a stable and central role in the Roman Curia alongside the Dicastry for the Doctrine of the Faith, while maintaining its unique lines of reporting directly to the Holy Father though its President.

The Commission is also given competency for the review of safeguarding policies and guidelines in the local Church:

“The Pontifical Commission assists diocesan/eparchial Bishops, Episcopal Conferences and Oriental Hierarchical Structures, Superiors of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and their Conferences in developing appropriate strategies and procedures, through Guidelines to protect minors and vulnerable persons from sexual abuse and to provide an appropriate response to such conduct by clergy and members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, according to canonical norms and taking into account the requirements of civil law”

PE art. 78 §2.


2018-2022 COMMISSION

Receiving the Commission in private audience in April, Pope Francis mandates the Commission to prepare an Annual Report on safeguarding efforts in the Church, with particular attention to the care of victims/survivors of abuse, in overseeing the application of article 2 of the Motu proprio, Vos estis lux mundi:

“I urge you to assist the Conferences of Bishops – this is very important: to assist and oversee in dialogue with the Conferences of Bishops – in establishing suitable centres where individuals who have experienced abuse, and their family members, can find acceptance and an attentive hearing, and be accompanied in a process of healing and justice.”

Also in March, the extended term of the Commission ends. An independent Search Committee is established to provide the Holy Father with a list of suitable candidates for future membership.



The Holy Father extends the Commission’s three-year term by a year and members to assess the Survivors Advisory Panel (SAP) model developed in three different local churches and online to measures the impact, successes and challenges that the model encountered in incorporating the victim/survivor perspective in policy development.

The results of the assessment are explored by victims/survivors, academics, church leaders and administrators in a high level seminar titled ‘A culture of healing – Developing a culturally sensitive approach to listening and responding to those who have been sexually abused in the Church’. The proceedings are being published as a guide for local churches in victim/survivor assistance.

The Commission continues to engage with academics and colleagues in the Roman Curia with overlapping competencies for canonical questions related to the protection of minors in the local church paving the way for another seminar on aspects of procedures in canonical penal processes concerning child sexual abuse (Results were considered in the revised Book VI of the CIC/1983 promulgated in 2021) titled The Rights of Victims in Penal Procedures. The proceedings from the seminar are in press.

The Commission’s collaboration in safeguarding formation for Religious Superiors continues, through a series of online seminars in conjunction with the International Union of Superiors General and Union of Superiors General. The proceedings of this series are published as a manual titled ‘A Culture of Care and Protection: New Challenges for Consecrated Life’.

Tutela Minorum co-sponsors an international interfaith symposium with the Harvard University and the Catholic University of America titled “Faith and Flourishing: Strategies for Preventing and Healing Child Sexual Abuse”.

In June 2021 Pope Francis appoints Fr. Andrew Small OMI, secretary of the Commission. In September 2021 in collaboration with the Catholic Bishops Conference of Poland the Commission organises a leadership formation conference titled Our Common Mission of Safe-guarding God’s Children, for the churches of central and eastern Europe.

One of the tangible outcomes of the Conference is the creation of the ECO safeguarding network among the local churches.



Digital Commission

The work of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (Tutela Minorum) moved on line during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. Members analysed the effects of quarantine on children and vulnerable adults in situations at risk, together with their Safeguarding partners in the Church and civil society. They also began an online awareness raising campaign culminating with an Introduction to Safeguarding Webinar Series.

During the Summer as restrictions eased, Pope Francis opened up the Vatican Gardens to the children of Holy See employees. Tutela Minorum in collaboration with the organizers of the Salesian Summer Camp provided Safeguarding training to the group of 30 young camp volunteers, as part of a Safe Environment program.


 A turning point

In February, Pope Francis welcomed a proposal from TutelaMinorum and invited the Presidents of the Bishops Conferences from around the world to Rome for a Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church. The three day gathering focused on responsibility, accountability and transparency in the Church’s response to those who have been abused. Pope Francis proposed an eight-point safeguarding framework and promulgated new Safeguarding Guidelines for Vatican City State and the Vicariate of Vatican City State appointing TutelaMinorum Secretary Mons. Robert Oliver as the safeguarding contact for the territory.

In May, the Holy Father promulgated the Apostolic Letter motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi, You are the Light of the World.

In December, TutelaMinorum organized an academic Seminar with international scholars to study the protection and promotion of the dignity of persons involved in allegations concerning the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. The emphasis of this Seminar was balancing confidentiality, transparency and accountability. Worldwide members carried forward over 130 Safeguarding formation, education and training initiatives.



Building a Safer Church together

Pope Francis confirmed the Pontifical Commission after its three-year ad experimentum phase and renewed its membership. In his Letter To The Holy People of God he writes “Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated.

The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults”. TutelaMinorum piloted Survivors Advisory Panels, on-line and in person, to explore the model as a safe space for people who have been abused to contribute to local church Safeguarding policies and practice.   

Members offered over 100 Safeguarding education, formation  and training initiatives as the movement for a safer church began to gain momentum. These included several presentations at the Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities Conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates and at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, Ireland. 

TutelaMinorum began working together with the two global unions for men and women religious, the International Union of Superiors General (Women) and the Union of Superiors General (Men) to explore the concept of Safeguarding and care for men and women religious in their various apostolates.









Pope Francis meets with members gathered in Plenary Assembly

Pope Francis met with TutelaMinorum members, encouraging them to embark on partnering with other faith groups and organizations within civil society active in the protection of children and vulnerable people.  Members and staff conducted two pilot projects in Colombia and Zambia to gauge Safeguarding structures, polices and implementation in different cultures.

In Spring, Tutela Minorum organized a major conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome to study #Safeguarding in Homes and Schools. Members attended the Global Education and Skills Forum, in the United Arab Emirates and a task force was invited by the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences  for a workshop on strengthening Safeguarding systems partnering with CAFOD UK. Members noticed a rising trend in requests for formation, particularly from Institutes for Religious life and Societies of Apostolic life. TutelaMinorum began working with the Survivor Advisory Panel to the National Safeguarding Commission of the Bishops’ Conference for England and Wales, to study safe space models.  In December, Pope Francis addressed the Child Dignity in the Digital World Congress in Rome, where the Holy See signed the Rome Declaration


 Ongoing work with victims and survivors of clerical sexual abuse resulted in the 2016 proposal of a Day of Prayer for People who have suffered abuse. Pope Francis asked national bishops’ conferences to choose an appropriate day on which to pray for the survivors and victims of sexual abuse, their families and communities as part of a universal initiative. The Holy Father also issued a letter to bishops on the Feast of the Holy Innocents asking them to adhere, clearly and faithfully, to “zero tolerance” of abuse against children, including sexual abuse

The Commission’s outreach spread across the continents with educational initiatives doubling year on year for a total of 70 events in as many countries in 2016.  Members stepped up presentations on safeguarding and accountability for church leadership presenting, among others, to the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM); the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) and Bishops Conferences in Mexico, Italy, Slovakia, Lithuania and Australia. 

Pope Francis issued the Apostolic Letter in Motu proprio As a Loving Mother, promulgated on the basis of a proposal by the Commission, clarifying that negligence regarding cases of sexual abuse committed against children or vulnerable adults are among the ‘grave causes’ that justify removal from ecclesiastical offices, even of bishops or their equivalent under canon law. 

TutelaMinorum was asked to lead Safeguarding formation as part in the annual formation courses for new bishops offered by both the Congregation of Bishops and the Congregation for the Evangelization for Peoples. Members also offered formation to  to future nuncios studying at the Accademia Ecclesiastica in Rome and personnel at the Congregation for Clergy.   In December the Congregation for Clergy issued the new Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalifor the formation of priests. It clearly refers to Safeguarding and indicates that “specific lessons, seminars or courses on the protection of minors are to be included in programs of initial and ongoing formation.”


Pope Francis approves the Tutela Minorum Statutes and appoints nine additional Commission members

The Commission studied lacunae in existing polices and norms and worked on the creation of a template guideline for Safeguarding Policies . The template is based on the 2011 Circular Letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and on the study of polices produced by many national bishops’ conferences.

It is a practical resource for bishops and religious leaders to help them develop and to implement effective policies, procedures, and programs for the protection of minors and vulnerable adults in their care.  

Members continued their work of building #safeguarding awareness locally through more than thirty educational initiatives across the globe, taking in the Philippines, Rwanda, Ireland, France and Spain.

Examples of the programs include a meeting in December with the Episcopal Secretariat of Central America and Panama (SEDAC), for a two day conference that include bishops from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama. In Vatican City State, Tutela Minorum began safeguarding formation for personnel in collaboration with other Holy See offices, starting with the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.  

In June, Pope Francis issued a Papal Rescript on the establishment of a new judicial body within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the consideration of appeals relating to graver offences (delicta graviora) of the clergy, including cases of the abuse by clergy of minors, in an effort to speed up processes.


The Chirograph

In March, Pope Francis issued a Chirograph  outlining the Commission’s task to advise the Holy Father on effective policies for the protection of minors and vulnerable adults and educational programs for all involved in this work. He appointed the first eight members chosen from a variety of disciplines and cultures, men and women, lay, religious, and clergy. In May they gathered in Rome, and months of intense study followed as the members identify TutelaMinorum’s focus areas: Working with those who had been abused, their families and communities; safeguarding standards and norms in church law and civil society; 

formation and education of church leadership and personnel and the theology and spirituality underpinning safeguarding efforts.

In July, members accompanied a group of victims and survivors of clerical child sexual abuse for a private Mass and a meeting with Pope Francis.

On the ground, the TutelaMinorum journey also began with members traveling to Poland, American Samoa, New Zealand, Rome and the USA to offer seminars, workshops and conferences on the protection of children and vulnerable adults in the church. 


The Start

The Council of Cardinals  advising Pope Francis proposed the idea of a Commission of experts to act as an advisory body to the Holy Father for the protection of minors and vulnerable adults.

The Cardinals, representing churches around the world, identified this task as one of the most urgent priorities for the Church today. The Holy Father approved the proposal and appointed Cardinal Seán O’Malley with the task of forming the Commission.