When Pope Francis announced the long awaited names of his commission on the protection of children in March, it was noted that four of the eight lay members are women, one a victim of clerical sex.
One of the women, 69-year-old British mother of four, Sheila Hollins, a general medical practitioner and consultant psychiatrist, has an impressive medical history, which includes having served as President of the British Medical Association and President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Less reported is the fact that Hollins belongs to a lay group of Benedictines, followers of the spiritual ideals of the sixth century monk, Saint Benedict, and regularly visits Lourdes.
The women were profiled in a recent Newsweek article.
The commission met last week at the Vatican for the first time. Following the meeting it was announced the commission will recommend that all negligent clerics be held accountable regardless of their rank in the Church. Sex abuse critics have long criticized the way the Catholic clergy have handled sex abuse cases and a core complaint is that bishops involved in cover-ups have never been held responsible.
Even a wider criticism has been that women have never been allowed to be part of a reform effort. Now that lay voices, including women, have a formal role in the process this tragic decades long story enters a new, and possibly, more hopeful chapter.
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