Peter Saunders, chief executive of the UK charity the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC), has been named to the Vatican’s commission for the Protection of Minors.
Saunders, who spent half an hour with Pope Francis earlier this year, is one of a number of abuse survivors from many different countries who will meet at the Commission’s next plenary session on 6-8 February.
“This is a massive privilege and further evidence that His Holiness is making the protection of children and young people his highest priority for the Church,” said Saunders. “I very much look forward to joining Baroness Sheila Hollins and Ireland’s Marie Collins as representatives from the British Isles.”
He described the appointment as a “tremendous recognition” for NAPAC, which he founded 18 years ago and is the only such helpline for adult survivors of abuse.
“His Holiness has made it clear that his concern is not just for those who have suffered within the Catholic community but for all victims and survivors,” Saunders added. “I welcome that very much. I know there is a great deal of work to be done and I look forward to our first meeting of 2015 at the Vatican in February.”
For background on Saunders, see his interview with the Boston Globe last July.
Saunders also appears in Austen Ivereigh’s new papal biography, The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope (Allen & Unwin). There he describes how Francis had listened closely to him as he told the Pope how the Church needed to invest more in helping and healing survivors.
“I knew I was listened to,” he told Ivereigh. “He gave me his total attention. We had eye contact. I told him I wasn’t interested in being part of a public relations exercise, but it was clear that’s not what it was.”
Saunders sees himself as a bridge between the Catholic Church he loves and the community of abuse survivors who are often deeply critical of the Church.
The papal commission, whose president is Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, and its secretary Mgr Robert Oliver, now includes two British members (the other is Baroness Sheila Hollins).
The others members are: Fr Luis Manuel Ali Herrera (Colombia), Dr Catherine Bonnet (France), Marie Collins (Ireland), Dr Gabriel Dy-Liacco (Philippines), Bill Killgallon (New Zealand), Sr Kayla Gertrude Lesa (Zambia), Sr Hermenegild Makoro (South Africa), Kathleen McCormack (Australia), Dr Claudio Papale (Italy), Hon. Hanna Suchicka (Poland), Dr Krysten Winter-Green (US), Fr Humberto Miguel Yáñez (Argentina), and Fr Hans Zollner SJ (Germany).
The Vatican’s bulletin announcing the new appointments gives the following information on the commission members.
Cardinal Seán O’MALLEY, OFM Cap. (United States) is the Archbishop of Boston and serves as the President of the Commission and a member of the Council of Cardinals which advises His Holiness, Pope Francis.
Mons. Robert OLIVER (United States) serves as the Secretary of the Commission, following many years in child protection work for the Archdiocese of Boston, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as the Promoter of Justice.
Rev. Luis Manuel ALI HERRERA (Colombia) is the Director of the Department of Phychology, professor of pastoral psychology in the Conciliar Seminary of the Archdiocese of Bogotá, and as a parish priest.
Dr. Catherine BONNET (France) is a child psychiatrist, psychotherapist, researcher, and author on child sexual abuse and perinatal violence and neglect.
Marie COLLINS (Ireland) is a survivor of child sexual abuse. A founder Trustee of the Marie Collins Foundation she served on the committee which drafted the Catholic Church’s all-Ireland child protection policy, “Our Children Our Church.”
Dr. Gabriel DY-LIACCO (Philippines) is an adult and adolescent psychotherapist and pastoral counselor for various mental health concerns including of individuals, couples, families and groups, including victims and perpetrators of abuse.
Prof. Sheila the Baroness HOLLINS (England) has worked as a psychiatrist and psychotherapist with children and adults with intellectual disabilities including those who have been sexually abused, and is a life peer in the House of Lords.
Bill KILGALLON (New Zealand) is Director of the National Office for Professional Standards of the Catholic Church in New Zealand where he has lived for the last four years. Prior to that he had a long career in social work and health services in the UK.
Sr. Kayula Gertrude LESA, RSC (Zambia) is a Development Professional, trainer and author on child protection, human trafficking, refugee rights and the right to information. She served as a member of the African Forum for Church Social Teaching (AFCAST).
Sr. Hermenegild MAKORO, CPS (South Africa) is a member of the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood in the Diocese of Mathatha in South Africa. She works as a high school teacher and for several years in the diocese as a trainer in pastoral work. After serving as an Associate Secretary General of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference for six years, Sr. Hermenegild was appointed as the Secretary General of the SACBC in 2012.
Kathleen McCORMACK AM (Australia) is a social welfare worker who served as Director of Welfare of CatholicCare in the Diocese of Wollongong for 29 years and held leadership roles in Family Services, Child Protection, Out Of Home Care and Ageing and Disability Services.
Dr. Claudio PAPALE (Italy) is a canon lawyer and a civil lawyer, professor of canon law at the Pontifical Urban University, and an official of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Peter SAUNDERS (England) was abused throughout his childhood in Wimbledon, South West London. Later in life, after earning a Business Studies degree, Peter discovered that he was one of millions who had suffered such abuse and who could not find any appropriate support. So he set up NAPAC, the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, for supporting all survivors and for developing greater resources for responding to child abuse.
Hon. Hanna SUCHOCKA (Poland) is a professor of constitutional law and specialist in human rights at the University of Poznan, and was formerly Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland and Ambassador of Poland to the Holy See.
Dr. Krysten WINTER-GREEN (United States) is a New Zealander with post-graduate degrees in Theology, Human Development, Social Work, Religion and Pastoral Psychology. She has served in dioceses around the world with homeless persons and those living with AIDS. Krysten’s concentration in the areas of child abuse include forensics, assessment and treatment of priest/clergy offenders.
Rev. Dr. Humberto Miguel YÁÑEZ, SJ (Argentina) is Director of the Department of Moral Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University, professor of moral theology at the Gregorian and the Pontifical Urban University, and former Director of the Center of Research and Social Action in Argentina.
Rev. Dr. Hans ZOLLNER, SJ (Germany) is President of the Centre for Child Protection of the Pontifical Gregorian University and Director and Professor of the Institute of Psychology. He was Chair of the organizing committee for the Symposium “Towards Healing and Renewal” on sexual abuse of minors (February 2012).