“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 media conference in Geneva on Thursday.
“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 17th, 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.
In Switzerland from 2010 until 2016, around 220 victims informed the Swiss church authorities of abuse by ordained clergy committed between 1950 and 1990.
Earlier this year fresh accusations of historic sexual abuse surfaced against around ten Catholic priests in the bishopric of Sion in the canton of Valais.
In February 2017 the Swiss Bishops Conference set up a commission charged with awarding compensation to victims of historic sex abuse by Swiss priests.