Critic refuses to quit Vatican sex abuse commission

Peter Saunders at a news conference in Rome. Photo: 6 February 2016 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Peter Saunders: "I'm not leaving my position on the commission"

An outspoken British member of a Roman Catholic commission on sexual abuse has refused to quit, saying his treatment by the Vatican is "outrageous".

Peter Saunders, who as a child was abused by priests, said he would stay and only discuss his position with the Pope - the man who appointed him.

The commission earlier voted for Mr Saunders to "take a leave of absence", saying he was difficult to work with.

Mr Saunders has been highly critical of the commission, set up in 2014.


Image copyright AFP
Image caption Pope Francis has already taken some steps to deal with the problem, but campaigners want more

Responding to a Vatican statement about his leave of absence, Mr Saunders was quoted by Reuters as saying in Rome: "I was never told in advance of any such statement.

"I find it outrageous that I was not told, much less that the statement occurred before I had had any time to reflect on what I might do next.

"I have not left and I'm not leaving my position on the commission. I was appointed by His Holiness Pope Francis and I will only talk to him about my position."

He added: "For me, as a survivor, the commission is a disgrace... They believe that child abuse is behind us, but it is in no way behind us."

The papal commission earlier passed a no-confidence vote against Mr Saunders, saying he was a "campaigner" and talked too much to the media.

One commission member - speaking on condition of anonymity - told Reuters news agency that the panel was "deeply committed to the protection of children".

But the member added that the panel's brief was to advise - not investigate or judge.

The commission - made of 17 members - was established to help Pope Francis establish "best practices" to tackle a series of sex abuse cases that have hit the Roman Catholic Church around the world.

The Vatican has been accused of "systematically" adopting policies allowing priests to sexually abuse thousands of children.

Pope Francis has said that dealing with the issue is vital for the Church's credibility, and that "sanctions" must be imposed against perpetrators.

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