Pope Francis has appointed Fr. Andrew Small of England as the new Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
Fr. Small is originally from Liverpool, England, and has served in parish ministry in Brazil and the United States. He was the US bishops’s policy advisor for international economic development from 2004 to 2009, after which he coordinated the Church’s recovery projects following the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
In an interview with Vatican News’s Mario Galgano, Fr. Small talks about his recent nomination as Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. (Read: Tearful Tagle Recalls His Grandfather’s Migration Story)
What does being Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors mean to you?
Apart from being a tremendous personal honor, there is a clear indication that the Commission is moving into a new phase. We are being called upon by the Holy Father to define the importance of safeguarding even more extensively throughout the entire network of the Church, which includes the important role to be played by the Roman Curia.
What are your expectations and commitment to this task?
My first priority is to get to know members of the Pontifical Commission, all of whom are doing tremendous work even though they are all volunteers. And I want to take my lead from them in listening to those whose lives have been impacted and, in many cases, cruelly broken because of abuse.
While listening is important and knowing what next steps need to be taken will come from the Commission itself and, of course, to listening to survivors, I think it is also important to provide avenues for people to engage with the Church on these questions. (Read: Bishop Welcomes ICC Probe Into Duterte’s War on Drugs)
This is so that they feel the structures of accountability are accessible to them, that they are transparent, and that they can be measured to see that a safe environment is being established in practice and not just in theory.
Where do you think we are now? What more needs to be done?
I think any process of implementation needs to see what is working and what needs to be improved. That just makes good sense. (Read: Pope Francis Appoints Cardinal Tagle as Member of Eastern Churches Congregation)
Again, I will defer to the Commission to get a much better understanding but as you’ve seen, there is a need to expand the circle of protection to include vulnerable persons and there’s a growing prioritization on the need to hold Church leaders accountable.