di Riccardo D'Andrea
Vatican City, December 5 - Pope Francis has decided to set up a special commission to advise him on how the Catholic Church should protect children and help the victims of sexual abuse by the clergy. A panel of eight cardinals who have been advising the pontiff on reforms suggested he set up the commission, the details of which will be described in depth in a forthcoming papal announcement. Officials said the commission will report on the current status of abuse victims, as well as propose clergy and laypersons to oversee the implementation of new initiatives. According the Vatican, those new initiatives will likely include guidelines and standards for the protection of children, training programs, criminal background checks and psychiatric evaluations for those who work with children and minors, and protocols for collaborating with civil authorities and for reporting offenses. It will also outline how Church officials should meet with victims, as well as how to facilitate the "recovery of clerics guilty of abuse". Panelist Sean Patrick O'Malley, archbishop of Boston, made the announcement. O'Malley, known as a crisis fixer in dioceses plagued by sexual abuse scandals, succeeded Cardinal Bernard Law as Boston archbishop in 2003. In 2002 Law was reassigned as archpriest of Rome when evidence suggested he had covered up abuse by priests in his care. According to allegations his departure from Boston was to evade arrest. Shortly after, he was made archpriest of Rome's Saint Mary Major Basilica, and in 2005 he voted in the conclave to elect Pope Benedict XVI. The commission announcement comes days after the Vatican rebuffed a request from the United Nations to provide information on alleged child sex abuse by priests, nuns or monks, arguing the cases fell under the auspices of the judicial authorities in countries where abuse happened.