Michael Sean Winters said it first: Pope Francis should appoint Jennifer Haselberger to the new commission he is organizing to address the on-going crisis of priestly pedophilia.
The formation of a Commission to address sex abuse was announced on Thursday, December 5, 2013. It remains unclear what the Commission's powers will be or its precise jurisdiction. It even remains uncertain where precisely in the Vatican bureaucracy the Commission will be placed.
Still, we know some of the details of what Pope Francis has planned, thanks to Sean Cardinal O'Malley's announcement. He indicated that the Commission will address the pastoral dimension of the child-abuse crisis. Presumably, he means that the Commission might help facilitate the healing process which the entire Church, lay and clerical alike, must undergo to put this crisis of confidence behind it.
Cardinal O'Malley indicated that the Commission will also look to reforming the ways in which the Church safeguards children. Finally, the Cardinal stated that the Commission will consist of a cross-section of the Church that will "include priests, men and women religious, and laypeople."
Critics have already expressed fears that the Commission will lack sufficient independence to be credible. To that end, the Commission's members must not only enjoy complete liberty of action, but must have every appearance of freedom to inquire and to make recommendations.
And this is where Jennifer Haselberger comes in. She is the St. Paul-Minneapolis canon lawyer whose advice to Archdiocesan authorities to practice openness and transparency in their handling of pedophilia cases went unheeded and who has now become a prominent whistle-blower.
She is highly trained. She is a graduate of St. Catherine University in St. Paul and has a degree in canon law from the University of Leuven in Belgium. She took decisive action, she has said, because of the need to protect children from harm. Her actions were selfless -- she felt an imperative need to respond to perceived continuing threats to the welfare of the vulnerable to exposing wrong-doing to public scrutiny.
The Commission's members must be independent. They must be fearless. And they must be credible. A good place to achieve these goals is to nominate Jennifer Haselberger to the new papal commission on child abuse.