A group formed to help the Catholic Church fight clerical sexual abuse of minors said on Saturday (February 7) that an important part of their work would be to ensure bishops would be held accountable if they had covered up clerical offenders.
"The commission is very, very concerned about this whole area of accountability and our responsibility is not to deal with individual cases but we do have a group that is working right now on policies that we feel would allow the Church to respond in an expeditious way when a Bishop has not fulfilled his obligations," commission member Cardinal O'Malley said during a briefing to the media.
Attending the commission for the first time was a victim of child sexual abuse by clergy, Peter Saunders, who said he would not remain on the commission unless fast action would be taken to hold accountable those who had covered up such cases.
"If there isn't action taken to apprehend and bring to justice people known by the church and relevant documents handed over... it is not disputed that there have been far too many cover-ups, there have been far too many clergy protected, moved from place to place, this has got to be consigned to history very, very quickly and if in a year or two there isn't some firm action on those matters, then I don't think I will be sitting here talking to you," said Saunders.
Not on the platform this time around, commission member Marie Collins, herself a victim of sexual abuse, agreed wholeheartedly with Saunders' view on the commission.
"If we don't really (get) particularly Bishop accountability in the next year, or within the next two years' at least, if we don't have something solid in place, I don't know that I would want to remain on the commission," she told journalists at the end of the news conference.
Collins pointed out that the commission was not just looking at sexual abuse, but also physical abuse, and they would never condone any kind of violence against children.
"The Commission certainly is not just set up to look at sexual abuse, it will also be covering that sort of physical abuse and emotional abuse as well," said Collins, who was abused in her native Ireland in the 1960s, and has campaigned for the protection of children and for justice for victims of clerical paedophilia.
"I don't think there's a point in me commenting on what the Holy Father had to say other than that I personally in my own life would not agree with corporal punishment of a child under any circumstances," she added.
Pope Francis will be directly informed of the results of the group's works.
The world-wide scandal, which came to global prominence in Boston in 2001, has seen known abusers shunted from parish to parish instead of being defrocked and handed over to authorities.
Child abuse litigation has cost the Catholic Church some $3bn in settlements in the United States alone and shaken the moral authority of leaders of the world's largest religious denomination.