Vatican child protection leader: ‘Building credibility needs a track record’

Vatican Fr. Andrew Small

Title: Vatican child protection leader: ‘Building credibility needs a track record’

Author: Luke Coppen
Publisher: The Pillar
Date:  04NOV2022
Fr. Andrew Small, secretary of the Vatican’s child protection committee, talks about sexual abuse and Church reform.

Fr. Andrew Small was appointed in June to one of the most important positions in the Catholic Church’s fight against abuse.

The English priest was named secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors pro tempore (“for the time being”) at a significant moment of transition for the body founded by Pope Francis in 2014.

The decree establishing the commission eight years ago defined its “specific task” as advising the pope on “the most opportune initiatives for protecting minors and vulnerable adults.”

In 2019, Pope Francis took another significant step when he issued the motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi, setting out new norms for combating abuse and holding Church leaders accountable for their handling of cases. Article 2 of the document called on all dioceses to establish a “public, stable and easily accessible” system for the submission of abuse reports.

In March this year, Pope Francis released a new Vatican constitution firmly establishing the commission within the Roman Curia, the Church’s central government. In April, the pope asked commission members to draw up an annual report on worldwide safeguarding efforts — a challenging task.

Fr. Small was born in Liverpool in 1968. He studied at the city’s St. Francis Xavier College (whose alumni include Vatican “foreign minister” Archbishop Paul Gallagher) and then read law. He entered the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1990, took his perpetual vows in 1997, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1999.

Fr. Small was the U.S. bishops’ policy adviser for international economic development from 2004 to 2009, and later served as national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the U.S.

In an extensive email interview with The Pillar, he discussed the commission’s turbulent history, its new iteration, and why the global Church continues to struggle to address abuse.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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