MANILA, Philippines – A Filipino psychotherapist has been appointed to the Vatican’s child protection body, joining several others chosen from various parts of the world, including a British victim of pedophile priests.
The Philippines’ Dr Gabriel Dy-Liacco joins 7 new members of the Commission for the Protection of Minors who were chosen from 5 continents “to allow a broad representation of different situations and cultures,” the Vatican said on Wednesday, December 17.
The Holy See described Dy-Liacco as an “adult and adolescent psychotherapist and pastoral counsellor for various mental health concerns including of individuals, couples, families and groups, including victims and perpetrators of abuse.”
The commission of experts is tasked with advising Pope Francis on how to deal with a sex abuse scandal which rocked the Catholic Church in the 2000s.
Led by American cardinal Sean O’Malley, the body – set up a year ago – is now made up of 7 women and 9 men, from both the clerical and lay worlds, with new members hailing from Australia, Britain, Colombia, New Zealand, Philippines, South Africa, United States and Zambia.
Peter Saunders from Britain is the second pedophile victim to be appointed to the commission created to root out pedophilia in the Catholic Church, after Marie Collins from Ireland, an outspoken campaigner for the rights of victims.
Saunders, who was abused throughout his childhood by two priests, set up NAPAC, the National Association for People Abused in Childhood, which aims to support victims and develop resources for responding to child abuse.
The appointment of new members to the body – including child protection trainers, psychologists and specialists in human rights – follows Francis’s move in November to create a separate commission to speed up the appeal process for priests found guilty by the Church of child sex abuse.
Speeding up the process would hasten the conviction of sex abusers, and help innocent priests clear their names.
For more than a decade, the Catholic Church has been rocked by a cascade of pedophilia scandals, with victims describing the trauma of abuse at the hands of people charged with their care.
A United Nations committee in February denounced the Church for its secretive handling of child abuse accusations and for failing to stamp out predatory priests, and urged it to hand over known and suspected abusers for prosecution.
Pope Francis hit back, saying the Church had “acted with transparency and accountability” in its handling of the scourge.
Despite his recognition of abuse as “the shame of the Church,” some victims’ groups have accused Francis of not doing enough, most prominently the American association SNAP, which does not believe the commission will resolve the issue.
“We know Pete Saunders and Marie Collins. They are wonderful, smart and compassionate individuals. We wish them, and the commission, well,” SNAP director David Clohessy said Wednesday.
Clohessey added: “But complicit Catholic officials need punishment, not advice. This commission can’t provide that. Only external pressure – from victims, witnesses, whistleblowers, police, prosecutors, and lawmakers – can.” – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com