Statement Prior to Questions
By Peter Saunders
Member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors
February 6, 2016
From: Peter Saunders
Sent: 06 February 2016 19:05
Subject: Press Conference
Statement prior to questions: Peter Saunders
February 6, 2016
Thank you very much for joining Juan Carlos [Cruz]and myself.
I am going to read a short statement which isn’t something that I generally do, but my experience as of the last few days on the commission has included some accusations concerning things that I have said when, in fact, I have not said those things. It is very hard to repudiate, especially if you haven’t got it there in black and white. I am going to make a short statement if you will bear with me and then Juan Carlos will say what he needs to say and then we are happy to take any questions.
My name is Pete Saunders and I am currently a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. I am the Founder of NAPAC in the UK.
I went to a meeting of the commission this morning to continue to ask the commission many hard questions about what is not being accomplished to protect children. I specifically was going to ask the commission to meet with Juan Carlos Cruz, who arrived in Rome last night, who has letters for Pope Francis from the clergy and the people of Osorno, Chile. Juan Carlos was kept off the commission after powerful cardinals in an email scandal made clear they were going to block him. Indeed, under oath one of those cardinals swore that he had prevented Juan Carlos from becoming a member of the commission.
Juan Carlos and we as commissioners were told after this that he was kept off because he was in litigation with the Church. I have presented questions that have not been answered about why this does not make sense. Juan Carlos was abused by a priest who the Vatican took action against based on his credibility and others. The same survivors accused Bishop Juan Barros of Osrono Chile of enabling and watching the abuse by this priest. Yet Pope Francis elevated Barros to bishop of Osorno. Myself and a number of other commissioners said this was wrong and that this bishop should be removed. This would be a test of the Pope’s seriousness on stopping child sex abuse, which was stated by a number of observers in the media.
Then Francis was recorded calling the people of Osorno “dumb” and “leftists”, which he has never answered for and which I have never stopped speaking out about. I said the Pope needs to come to the commission and explain this and other things, such as why there was no Tribunal set up yet to hold bishops accountable for enabling child sex abuse. The people of Osorno and of Chile from parishioners to the the government have been outraged by this situation, as they should be. I have criticised the pope often before on these vital issues, and have given him credit for having a survivor like me on the commission who would do so. But today, commission members reacted to my criticisms in a frightening way, acting as if dissent and free speech would make their work more difficult. This is exactly what created the child sex abuse crisis in the first place.
I was asked to consider what my role should be with the commission. I did not make a decision to take or accept any decision on a leave of absence. I said I would reflect on what I would do. I may well have been back in the meeting shortly. However, I then heard that the Vatican had made a statement about my taking a leave of absence. I was never told in advance of any such statement and I find it outrageous that I was not told, much less that the statement occurred before I had made had any time to reflect on what I might do next.
I have not left and am not leaving my position on the commission. I was appointed by His Holiness Pope Francis and I will talk only with him about my position.
Yesterday, as an example of why I am reading this statement is because this is so important. I am so grateful for you being here. Yesterday one of my proposals to the commission was that we looked at how we could work with more openness and transparency as a body. Perhaps by having open meetings or at the very least making transcripts of our discussions public. The response of the commission was that they want to remain in secret with discussions behind closed doors for reasons I am sure they are more than happy to share with you. But as I said the reason the vile crime of abuse and rape of children persists is because too many people and too many institutions, including our church our willing to brush these matters under the carpet and to try and silence anybody who wishes to speak out of such matters.
Before I turn this over to Juan Carlos, one of the most disturbing things that happened with the commission this week was a report that two priests from Italy recently discovered that one of their colleagues is abusing children. The priests did the courageous thing and did what they should do and went to their bishop to report this criminality. The bishop instructed they remain silent. That is itself rips my heart apart, that a bishop would tell his priests to remain silent and sadly this happens all over the world. Those brave priests went to the police, the police response was, what did your bishop say?
Here is my dear friend, Juan Carlos Cruz from Chile.