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Hans Zollner: Two keys for priests to avoid sexual abuse


This expert from the Vatican commission for the Protection of Minors explains that to prevent priests from sexual abuse, two aspects must be stressed.

The seminary must closely review candidates before accepting; and once these men have been ordained, they must never lose their spiritual guidance. 

FR. HANS ZOLLNER
Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors
“The median age for a priest who begins to sexually abuse is 39. Other abusers, such as family fathers, coaches, professors, psychologists, doctors or lawyers, start at 25.”

Hans Zollner explains that a priest can become an abuser due to psychological problems or another cause: emptiness. This can push him to go through with it.

FR. HANS ZOLLNER
Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors
“It's very important to look at the age and expectations of the priest in his 40s. What's happening to him? At age 40, he's normally responsible for a parish or other institution, which entails more responsibilities, more work. On the other hand, the spiritual life frequently stops, perhaps because he doesn't have spiritual guidance, there's no spiritual growth alongside the increase in responsibilities. A pastor must guide a large group of people, he must manage funds, plan, see many people. He invests more time in that than his spiritual life and he ends up emptying his internal self.”

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors teaches bishops and laity from around the world how to prevent abuse. Its fundamental principle is that the solution is found by involving everyone, not only those who govern. Thus, Zollner agrees with the message given to the Chilean people by the pope in his May 31 letter. 

In it, the Holy Father said in order to prevent further abuse, it's necessary to put an end to abuse of power by elitist clerics who don't listen to people. 

FR. HANS ZOLLNER
Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors
“The pope is going to the bottom of the issue. He's not choosing one, two or three black sheep, but rather looking at the root of the problem: what has caused these abuses and how their existence has been systematically denied for so long. How there were priests (abusers) who were transferred, the negligence of Church leaders, the bishops. The main thing is that the pope is looking at the system in its entirety. He's very aware that we all play a part. He wants to understand how the whole Chilean Church has arrived at this situation.”

Pope Francis has asked for a more active laity and a hierarchy more willing to listen to it, so that the bishops don't isolate themselves.