06 February 2016, The Tablet

Abuse campaigner disputes removal from Vatican child protection commission

A British abuse survivor is disputing his removal from a Vatican child protection commission and is seeking a meeting with Pope Francis about the matter.

Today the Holy See announced that Peter Saunders was no longer a member of a pontifical safeguarding body and was taking a “leave of absence” to consider his position.

Mr Saunders had been appointed to serve on a commission set up by Pope Francis tasked with improving the Church’s handling of abuse across the world. 

He has been critical of the slow pace of reform by the Church in relation to abuse and just before the commission began its latest round of meetings called for the Pope to attend the gathering adding that it would be “outrageous” if he failed to do so.

Hours after the Vatican released a statement saying he had left the safeguarding body, Mr Saunders told reporters in Rome that he has not left his position and would only talk to the Pope about his ongoing participation in the group.

According to the National Catholic Reporter, Mr Saunders said: "I did not make a decision to take or accept any decision on a leave of absence” and added: "my understanding is that I was appointed by Pope Francis and therefore I can only be removed by Pope Francis.”

He has asked Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, to organise for a meeting between Mr Saunders and the Pope.   

The campaigner, who was the founder of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC), said that 15 members of the 17 commission voted in favour of a no-confidence motion in him (one abstained and another did not take part.)

He added that some commission members had expressed concerns around him speaking to the press. 

Mr Saunders had been involved in a high profile media showdown with Vatican finance chief, Cardinal George Pell, who the former NAPAC Chief Executive accused of covering up abuse when in Australia - a charge the cardinal strongly denies.

Mr Saunders has also spoken out against the Pope’s decision to appoint Bishop Juan Barros to the Diocese of Osorno in Chile as Bishop Barros has been accused of an abuse cover-up, even witnessing abuse.

The pontifical commission members include Baroness (Sheila) Hollins, Marie Collins, an Irish abuse survivor and Bill Kilgallon, former Chairman of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission of England and Wales. Alongside Mr Saunders, Ms Collins is the only other abuse survivor on the commission.



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