Vatican stresses policy role of sex committee

2016-02-08 20:07
Peter Saunders, a British advocate for sex abuse survivors, during an interview in Rome. (Gregorio Borgia, AP)

Peter Saunders, a British advocate for sex abuse survivors, during an interview in Rome. (Gregorio Borgia, AP)

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Vatican City - Pope Francis' sex-abuse commission stressed on Monday that its sole purpose is to propose initiatives to protect children from paedophiles, after it effectively suspended a member who advocated a more activist role.

On Saturday, the commission told Peter Saunders, a British survivor of abuse, to take a leave of absence after he criticised the slow pace of progress and pressed to have the commission intervene immediately in individual cases, rather than just craft long-term policies to fight abuse.

In a statement on Monday, the commission cited from its founding documentation that its "specific task" is to provide the pope with proposals to protect children and help local churches take responsibility for the problem.

It didn't mention Saunders in the statement concluding its week-long plenary meeting. Instead, it reported on progress to date, including finalising a request for Francis to issue a reminder to church authorities that they must actually listen to victims when they come forward. And it said it was planning workshops this year on bringing greater transparency to church trials for priests accused of raping and molesting children.

Saunders, who made headlines on several occasions by criticising the pope and cardinals for their handling of specific cases, contends that only Francis could remove him, and that he remains a commission member.

The commission was created in 2013 after Francis came under criticism from victims' groups who believed he didn't fully grasp the full scope of the problem. It was slow to get off the ground, but has begun meeting with bishops and holding workshops for church personnel around the world.

The commission's most significant proposal - to create an in-house tribunal to hear cases of bishops who fail to protect their flock - was accepted by the pope, but hasn't been put into practice.

Read more on:    vatican city  |  child abuse

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