Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Marie Collins: From survivor to adviser

25 March 2014, 20:22

Vatican City - Marie Collins is not your ordinary papal adviser.

Sexually assaulted as a child by a hospital chaplain, Collins went onto become a leading Irish activist demanding justice for the victims of priestly abuse and a fierce critic of the Catholic Church's handling of the scandal.

Now she has been named to Pope Francis' commission on setting sex abuse policy, one of eight people - half of them women - who will help craft the panel's scope and advise the church on best practices to protect children.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Collins said her top priority was for the Vatican to punish those bishops who have covered up for priests who raped children.

"There's no point in my mind of having gold-plated child-protection programmes in place if there's no sanction for a bishop who decides to ignore them," Collins said by telephone from her home in Dublin.

"The reason everyone is so angry is not because they have abusers in their ranks. Abusers are in every rank of society. It's because of the systemic cover-up."

Francis announced the initial members of the commission after coming under fire from victims' groups for a perceived lack of attention to the scandal, which has cost the church credibility in traditionally Catholic strongholds of the US, Europe and Latin America.

Canon law does provide for sanctions if a bishop is negligent in carrying out his duties, but to date no bishop has ever been disciplined for abuse-related negligence.

Collins acknowledged that she may be disappointed by the commission, but said she felt it was "worth taking the chance" to participate, even at the risk of losing credibility with other priestly sex abuse survivors.

"People are telling me that it means I trust the church. But the fact is, I don't trust them at all," she said.

"My reason for saying 'yes' is because I've been criticising the church for how they do things and the way they treat survivors," she said. "Not to take this opportunity to say those things at the heart of the church would go against everything I feel."

Collins was sexually assaulted by the Reverend Paul McGennis in 1960 when she was 13 and in the hospital. He also took lewd photos of her.

She battled anxiety, depression and agoraphobia for decades and was in and out of psychiatric hospitals. When she finally summoned the courage to report her abuser, her pastor told her it was her fault.

"I disintegrated into 1 000 pieces," she said. "I didn't speak to anyone for 10 years."

Eventually civil authorities prosecuted and jailed the priest and he was sentenced two more times for molesting other children. He was stripped of his priestly duties and became a layman in 1997.

In 2003, Collins helped the Dublin archdiocese set up its child-protection service and in 2012 she addressed a Vatican-backed symposium at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University to educate bishops on crafting guidelines to protect children.

The main US victims' group in the US, SNAP, welcomed Collins' participation in Francis' panel, as did the leading church authority on clerical sex abuse, Bishop Charles Scicluna, for a decade the Vatican's chief sex crimes prosecutor.

"Her resolve and indeed the very narrative she brings to the table will help forge the determined implementation of policy the church needs at this time," Scicluna said in an email to AP.

- AP

Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Wilon Ochieng
Labour Party to dump both Jubilee...

The Labour Party of Kenya is likely to avoid supportoing both the CORD and Jubilee factions during the 2017 General Elections. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Ukambani MP quits Jubilee, to run...

An Ukambani MP has quit the Jubilee Party, citing voter apathy as his reason behind leaving the ruling coalition. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
Government launches probe into Po...

The government has launched an inquiry into the circumstances that could have led to two National Police Service helicopter accidents in August and September this year. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilwon Ochieng
Deputy Governor's ally found with...

The EACC has recovered KES 2 million in fake currency from a close ally of Deputy Governor for Tharaka Nithi Eliud Mati. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Mudavadi given permission to join...

Musalia Mudavadi has been ghranted permission by his party to join the CORD Coalition. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
EACC officers raid Deputy Governo...

EACC officers raided the home of a Deputy Governor as theft case continues in court. Read more...