Papal commission on sex abuse votes that member take leave of absence

By Carol Glatz

CITY (CNS) — The papal commission on child protection voted that one of its
members — a survivor of abuse and victims’ advocate — take a leave of absence
and consider other ways to contribute to the advisory body.

Saunders, founder and chief executive officer of the National Association for
People Abused in Childhood, told reporters, however, that he would not leave
his position on the commission.

was appointed by His Holiness Pope Francis and I will talk only with him about
my position,” he said Feb. 6.

Francis established the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in
2014 to recommend better ways to protect minors and vulnerable adults and how
best to promote “local responsibility in the particular churches”
concerning abuse perpetrated by members of the clergy.

Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, confirmed Feb. 8 that the
17-person commission, which includes another abuse survivor, “approved
unanimously with one abstention” that Saunders take a leave of absence to
think about other ways to help the commission externally.

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston — president of the pontifical commission
and one of the pope’s top cardinal advisers — said in a written statement,
“Peter Saunders has been asked to advise the commission on the possible
establishment of a victim survivor panel to work with the commission.”

told the Associated Press Feb. 6 that the members concluded they could not
trust him to stick to the commission’s mandate as a purely advisory body.

Lombardi told reporters Feb. 8 that it was clear the commission’s “course
of action is not undertaking a discussion, investigation, judging individual
cases” of abuse or lack of accountability.

has been openly critical of Pope Francis and other top-level church leaders and
of the slow pace of the commission’s work when it came to bishops’
accountability in acting upon suspected and known instances of abuse by

and a group of Chilean Catholics and clerics have voiced particular concern
about the pope’s nomination of Bishop Juan Barros in 2015 to the Diocese of
Osorno, Chile. The bishop had been accused of covering up for a priest who was
known to have committed sexual abuse. Bishop Barros, however, denied having had
knowledge of Father Fernando Karadima’s criminal behavior, prior to news about
the abuse in the press.

papal commission, meanwhile, released a press release Feb. 8 saying it was
preparing the final version of proposals to make to the pope, including “a
request for him to remind all authorities in the church of the importance of
responding directly to victims and survivors who approach them.” Members
also were working on a recommendation for a universal day of prayer for abuse
victims and preparing materials for a special penitential liturgy.

commission also is developing a website to share best practices for protecting
minors, and “workshops on the legal aspects of the protection of minors to
establish more transparency around canonical trials” are being planned for
later in the year.

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