The clergy sexual abuse survivor said to be taking "a leave of absence" from Pope Francis' special commission to confront the abuse crisis says he did not accept such a leave and is now seeking a meeting with the Pontiff.
- NCR Online/Religion News Service
"I have not left and I am not leaving my position on the commission," said British children's advocate Peter Saunders. "I was appointed by His Holiness Pope Francis and I will only talk to him about my position."
Saunders was speaking in a press briefing in Rome on Saturday after the Vatican released a statement that day saying "it was decided" by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors that he would be taking a leave from his position as one of its 17 members.
A statement released by the Vatican on Monday at the end of the biannual meeting made no mention of its decision on Saturday that Peter Saunders would take a “leave of absence.”
The final statement by the papal commission on Monday instead cited progress on a range of issues and reiterated that its chief task is establishing policies that churches around the world should follow to protect children.
Saunders, founder of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood in Britain, has frequently been critical of the Vatican’s handling of clerical abuse and the apparent slow working pace of the commission, which was created by Pope Francis nearly two years ago.
He has argued the advisory body should advocate for particular cases that come to light. One of those cases, Saunders says, concerns Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno in Chile, who was appointed by Pope Francis last year.
Bishop Barros’ longtime mentor was a priest later convicted of sexually abusing children, Fr Fernando Karadima.
However, he has denied allegations that he covered up abuse by Fr Karadima and rejected calls for his resignation.
He has also been supported by the Pope, who has said there is no evidence that Bishop Barros knew of Fr Karadima’s abuse; Pope Francis has also sharply criticised Bishop Barros’ passionate critics.
During the commission’s meeting on Sunday, a survivor of abuse by Fr Karadima, Juan Carlos Cruz, delivered letters from Catholics in his home country calling for the resignation of Bishop Barros.
Peter Saunders’s departure was ugly, but it was inevitable (Catholic Herald)