Papal Commission Tries to Dismiss Outspoken Member: BishopAccountability.org Responds
Statement by Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director, BishopAccountability.org (cell 781-439-5208)
The apparent attempt today by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors to eject an outspoken survivor raises serious doubts about its integrity and independence.
We hope Pope Francis quickly overturns the group’s move and insists on Pete Saunders’ continued membership.
More important, Pope Francis himself should model openness to criticism by accounting for the failings that Saunders itemized in his press conference today: the Pope’s unyielding support for Chilean bishop Juan de la Cruz Barros Madrid despite strong evidence that Barros enabled a notorious sexual predator; and the continued invisibility of the ‘bishop accountability’ tribunal that the Pope announced last June.
We hope too that both the Pope and the commission agree to meet with Chilean survivor Juan Carlos Cruz, who has traveled to Rome to convey the anguish of Chilean Catholics at the Barros appointment.
What's at stake here is nothing less than papal accountability. The Church’s massive cover-up of child sexual abuse relied on the politeness of lay Catholics. The last thing it needs is another compliant advisory panel. Accountability requires loyal critics like Pete Saunders.
Until today, the commission had shown pluck and determination that many didn’t expect. Its two members who are survivors, Saunders and Irishwoman Marie Collins, have openly challenged Pope Francis, especially about the disastrous Chilean situation. Their outspokenness and courage gave the commission credibility, raising the hopes of both survivors and disillusioned Catholics that it might generate real reforms.
The group's action today, however, undercuts its sincerity, sending a familiar message: that discretion is valued more than candor.
There's a history of openly critical laypeople and survivors being dismissed from church advisory panels. In 2002, former Oklahoma governor Frank Keating was forced to resign from the US bishops’ first lay review board after comparing secretive and complicit bishops to the Cosa Nostra.
As Saunders said today, “The reason the vile crime of abuse and rape of children persists is because too many people and too many institutions, including our church, are willing to brush these matters under the carpet, and to try and silence anybody who wishes to speak out of such matters.”
Given what he suffered as a child, Saunders’ service to the Church has been extraordinary. Sexually assaulted by two priests as a little boy, he somehow retained his love for Catholicism – so much so that he not only participated in Pope Francis’s first meeting with survivors in July 2014, but agreed to serve on the Commission. In a 2014 interview, he described himself as a 'devout Catholic.'
Founded in 2003 and based near Boston, Massachusetts, USA, BishopAccountability.org is a large online archive of documents, reports, and news articles documenting the global abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church. An independent non-profit, it is not a victims' advocacy group and is not affiliated with any church, reform, or victims' organization. In 2014, its website hosted 1.5 million unique visitors.
Contacts for BishopAccountability.org
Anne Barrett Doyle, Co-Director, email@example.com, 781-439-5208 cell
Terence McKiernan, President and Co-Director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 508-479-9304