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Vatican commission distances itself from clash between abuse survivor and cardinal

Peter Saunders (PA)

The Vatican’s abuse commission has sought to distance itself from a row involving one of its most prominent members and a senior cardinal.

According to Reuters, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors issued a statement on Tuesday saying that it “has no jurisdiction to comment on individual cases or inquiries”.

The statement came after British abuse survivor Peter Saunders, who was appointed to the commission last December, said he would continue to criticise Cardinal George Pell despite the threat of legal action.

Mr Saunders, head of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC), told the Australian news programme 60 Minutes that the former Archbishop of Sydney was “almost sociopathic” in his handling of abuse abuse cases and called for his dismissal as prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy.

A spokesman for Cardinal Pell said Mr Saunders’s comments were “false and misleading” and that the cardinal was “left no alternative but to consult with his legal advisers”.

In response, Mr Saunders accused the cardinal to trying to silence him.

He told Guardian Australia: “Our Church has a history of spending millions on defending paedophiles.

“George Pell, obviously a wealthy man, will think nothing of using his wealth to silence me but I have said nothing that others haven’t said and it is only my opinion. It is not slanderous.”

Mr Saunders told Our Sunday Visitor that he spoke out after being contacted by victims of clerical abuse in Australia.

He said: “I am getting daily messages from people saying: ‘You’re on the commission. Can’t you speak out about this?'”