The Commission

Professor Myriam WIJLENS

The Netherlands / Germany

Professor of Canon Law at the Faculty of Catholic Theology

Myriam Wijlens, Dutch theologian and professor of canon law at the University of Erfurt (Germany), clerical sexual abuse expert in civilian courts regarding Church liability, canonical delegate for penal investigations in over 100 cases, policy writer.

Professor Wijlens, born in The Netherlands, holds a licentiate in Catholic theology (Catholic University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands), a licentiate, doctorate and Ph.D. in canon law (Saint Paul University/University of Ottawa – Canada) and completed her habilitation with the venia legendi for canon law (University of Münster – Germany). 

After visiting professorships at the Catholic University of America (Washington DC) from 2001-2003 and Saint Paul University in Ottawa from 2004-2006, and being an assistant professor at the University of Tilburg (1999-2005), Myriam Wijlens was appointed as full professor of canon law at the University of Erfurt (Germany) in 2005. From 2008 until 2011 she served as vice president of the University of Erfurt.

She first encountered the need to issue guidelines providing a response to allegations of sexual abuse in Canada in 1987. She was involved in drafting guidelines for responding to allegations of sexual abuse in The Netherlands from 1994. Since 2002, numerous bishops and major superiors in Germany have appointed her to make the preliminary canonical penal investigation (c. 1717), and she has served in this role in approximately 100 cases. In 2005, the supreme state attorney of Ireland called upon her expertise on negligence and damage caused by a superior who had reassigned a perpetrator to a school. She has published books and articles on canonical aspects of abuse of minors.

The Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity (PCPCU-Vatican) appointed her as its delegate to the Standing Commission of Faith and Order at the World Council of Churches (Geneva) in 2008. In 2014, the delegation was renewed until 2022 and she serves as the co-moderator of its working group “Moral Discernment in the Churches”. From 2012 – 2017 the PCPCU mandated her to serve on the Consultation between the Roman Catholic Church and the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe. In 2019 the PCPCU appointed her as advisor to ARCIC III (Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission).

The University of Durham (UK) appointed her as honorary professor for ecumenism and canon law from 2012-2021. 

Myriam Wijlens focuses on reform of canonical structures and institutions in the area of ecclesiology (with attention for the ecumenical dimension), sexual abuse of minors and the law on consecrated life in religious institutes. Since 2004 Myriam Wijlens has served as co-moderator of the international research group Peter and Paul Seminar, which focuses on necessary reforms of canon law in light of Vatican II. In 2020, she obtained a two-year research grant freeing her from all teaching obligations to attend to the systemic challenges revealed by the sexual abuse crises and the necessary ecclesial reforms. 

Myriam Wijlens also teaches interdisciplinary courses such as “The Well Being of Children: Rights – Protection – Promotion” and “Sexual Abuse of Minors in Institutions: Law – Causes – Prevention”. 

In 2018, Pope Francis appointed Professor Wijlens as a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. She serves as the co-moderator of its working group “Safeguarding Guidelines and Norms”.

Protection of minors: A balance is needed

Protection of minors: A balance is needed

2 years from the February 2019 Summit on the Protection of Minors, Prof. Wijlens speaks of the Churches’ ongoing work to ensure the safety, protection and dignity of all.

Balancing confidentiality, transparency and accountability

Balancing confidentiality, transparency and accountability

The ongoing work of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (TutelaMinorum) continues to bring together experts from around the world, providing renewed attention to strengthening the Church’s response to the sexual abuse crisis faced in every part of...