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Sex abuse survivor removed from Vatican panel

Peter Saunders, an abuse survivor, has been dumped from Pope Francis' sex abuse advisory committee. The victims' advocate had been highly critical of the Vatican's sluggish progress in protecting children.

A high-profile British sexual abuse survivor and member of a papal sex abuse committee was voted off the panel, the Vatican said.

"It was decided that Mr. Peter Saunders would take a leave of absence from his membership to consider how he might best support the commission's work," the Vatican said following a commission meeting on Saturday.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Saunders said the commission members voted, with one abstention, against his further participation in the group. He said the members concluded that they could no longer trust him to work within the scope of the commission's mandate.

"I do not want to prevent the work of the commission, the good work that the commission is doing, from going ahead, so I had no choice but to step aside," Saunders said.

The outspoken critic, who had been abused by a priest as a child, said the Vatican's lack of immediate action to

protect children

in the face of

continuing rape and molestation

cases, "made me lose faith in the process and lose faith in Pope Francis."

Watch video 03:56

Former Regensburg choirboy describes abuse

'Slow progress' in Pope's committee

The commission's decision is a blow to

Francis' efforts to appear tough on abuse,

since the presence of Saunders and another abuse survivor, Marie Collins, gave the commission credibility.

Collins told AP that the vote and Saunders' removal was a "sad day" for the commission. Although she acknowledged Saunders' complaints about the pace of the committee, she maintained that the overall mission was still important.

"It is slow. It's not going to make changes overnight. There are frustrations in that," she said. "But if we can change policy and get policies put in place that will stick around the world that will make children safer in the future, then it's worth making time to get it right."

Pope Francis

established the commission

to establish "best practices" in dioceses around the world. The commission is comprised of both clerics and lay people, including eight women on the 17-member panel.

rs/sms (AP, Reuters, kna)

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