The Catholic Church’s foremost research institute studying sexual abuse of minors is expanding its mandate to also include the sexual and spiritual abuse of adults, evidence of the Vatican’s increasing awareness that children aren’t the only victims of clergy who abuse their power and authority.
The Rev. Hans Zollner, one of Pope Francis’ top advisers on abuse, said the institute’s broader scope reflects lessons from the #MeToo movement, the pope’s own recognition that nuns and seminarians can be abused by their superiors, and evidence that systemic and structural problems in the church have allowed abuse to fester.
“We cannot only look at individual problems anymore. We need also to look into the institutional conditions that promote (abuse) or block a safe environment,” Zollner told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
He spoke to the AP on the eve of the official launch of the new safeguarding institute at the Pontifical Gregorian University. The institute incorporates the decade-old Centre for Child Protection and, as a Vatican-sanctioned anthropology department, can now award academic degrees, have its own dedicated faculty and partner on equal footing with other universities.
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