2015-02-05 12:29:00

Abuse survivor shares hopes ahead of Pontifical Commission plenary

(Vatican Radio) Making the Church a safer place for children will be at the top of the agenda in the Vatican this weekend as the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors holds its first full plenary meeting. Last December Pope Francis named nine new members from different continents to the Commission, which was set up a year earlier and is headed by U.S. Cardinal Sean O’Malley.

The plenary meeting, from February 6th to 8th, will watched closely by survivors of abuse to see how far the Commission can move in implementing new safeguarding measures and in making child protection a priority for the Church in countries right across the globe .

Among the new appointees to the Commission is Peter Saunders, chief executive of NAPAC, the UK’s National Association for People Abused in Childhood. He sat down with Philippa Hitchen to talk about his work with abuse survivors and about his own journey of healing, including a meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican last July….


Saunders says he founded NAPAC nearly 20 years ago as he couldn't find any support for himself as a survivor of abuse and initially thought he was the only one it had happened to....

He says when he first disclosed the sexual abuse he'd suffered it made everyone feel incredibly uncomfortable and at that time people just wanted to sweep it under the carpet. Now, he says, it's finally being swept out again and survivors are at last being given a voice.....

Saunders admits there are times he's been angry with God but he has never lost his Catholic faith, even though the first abuse he suffered was at the hands of the headmaster at his Catholic primary school. The consequences of such abuse, he says, "put a sledghammer through my ability to trust" and continue to affect every aspect of his life, leading to low self-esteem, shame and guilt which he is still trying to deal with through regular therapy.

Saunders says it's difficult to overstate how important it was for him to be asked to go and meet with Pope Francis, who he says wanted to listen, to learn and to do something about this problem - not to undo the damage that has been done to people like him but to stop it happening to children in the future...


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