Abuse survivor no longer working with Vatican commission

by Joshua J. McElwee

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One of the most outspoken members of the commission advising Pope Francis on issues relating to clergy sexual abuse is no longer actively working with the group, the Vatican has announced.

Following a meeting of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors this week in Rome, a statement Saturday said "it was decided" that British sexual abuse survivor and children's advocate Peter Saunders would take a leave of absence from the group.

Saunders, the statement said, would take time "to consider how he might best support the Commission’s work."

Saunders is the founder of the UK's National Association for People Abused in Childhood. He had served on the Commission since December 2014 but had been highly critical of what he characterized as a slow process of reform of the church's practices on sexual abuse.

The commission member had particularly said he was "gravely concerned" about the appointment last year of a bishop in Chile who is accused of covering up abuse. He also told the Los Angeles Times Friday that he had asked Francis to attend the commission's meeting this week in Rome and that it would be "outrageous" if the pope did not come.

In a separate statement Saturday, commission president Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley said the group's members had asked Saunders to advise them on possibly creating a victim/survivor panel to help with their work.

Saunders did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his position with the commission. His departure leaves the 17-member group with one sexual abuse survivor among its active members: Irish laywoman Marie Collins.

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is jmcelwee@ncronline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

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