By NICOLE WINFIELD
VATICAN CITY - Marie Collins is not your ordinary papal adviser.
Sexually assaulted as a child by a hospital chaplain, Collins went onto become a leading Irish activist demanding justice for the victims of priestly abuse and a fierce critic of the Catholic Church's handling of the scandal.
Now she has been named to Pope Francis' commission on setting sex abuse policy, one of eight people, half of them women, who will help craft the panel's scope and advise the church on best practices to protect children.
In a recent interview, Collins said her priority was for the Vatican to punish those bishops who have covered up for priests who raped children.
"There's no point in my mind of having gold-plated child-protection programs in place if there's no sanction for a bishop who decides to ignore them," Collins said by telephone from her home in Dublin. "The reason everyone is so angry is not because they have abusers in their ranks. Abusers are in every rank of society. It's because of the systemic cover-up."
Francis announced the initial members of the commission after coming under fire from victims' groups for a perceived lack of attention to the scandal, which has cost the church credibility and billions of dollars.
Church law does provide for sanctions if a bishop is negligent in carrying out his duties, but to date no bishop has ever been disciplined for abuse-related negligence. In its announcement last week, the Vatican hinted that might change.
Collins acknowledged that she may be disappointed. But said she felt it was "worth taking the chance" to participate in the commission.