Geneva (AFP) – Child abuse victims and human rights activists from 15 countries on Thursday launched a new pressure group to campaign against abuse by Catholic clerics.
“The church has got away with crime for too long”, said Peter Saunders, a British survivor of abuse, announcing the creation of the Ending Clerical Abuse (ECA) group at a press conference in Geneva.
“ECA stands to compel the Roman catholic church to end clerical abuse, especially child abuse, in order to protect children and to seek justice for victims,” added Saunders, a former member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
Jose Andres Murillo, a Chilean victim of clerical paedophilia who recently met with Pope Francis, said: “There is progress regarding clerical abuse in some countries, primarily due to brave victims who have fought to raise their voices.”
However, “there are many more places in the world where victims voices are silenced,” he added, notably Africa, Latin America and Asia. “ECA seeks to be that voice”.
Last month, all 34 Chilean bishops announced their resignation over a child sex abuse scandal that has come to haunt the reign of Pope Francis.
Several members of the Chilean church hierarchy are accused by victims of ignoring and covering up child abuse by Chilean paedophile priest Fernando Karadima during the 1980s and 1990s.
On May 17, the Argentinian pope promised “changes” to the Chilean church to “restore justice”, but gave no indication of eventual consequences for those suspected of keeping silent about the abuse.
Twenty members of the new ECA group, from Chile, DR Congo, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico, Poland, the United States and Switzerland, held up pictures of bishops, from their respective countries, accused of having covered up abuse by priests.