The Mail on Sundayreported that Mr Saunders had a sexual encounter with the woman – who was abused when she was a child and who cannot be named for legal reasons – following an alcohol-fuelled lunch which was paid for on the charity’s credit card.
He had contacted the woman after seeing her talking about her abuse during a BBC interview and arranged a meeting to discuss her working for NAPAC.
The newspaper reported that he met the woman and her friend for coffee before heading for lunch at a branch of the Bella Italia restaurant in Manchester, during which they consumed at least three bottles of wine.
Before eating, the devout Christian who was appointed by Pope Francis as a member of a Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors in 2014, encouraged the group to join hands in prayer and thank God for ‘good fellowship’. Later, it was reported that he went upstairs to use the lavatory where, he admitted, the encounter took place in a cubicle.
Mr Saunders insists that it was initiated by the woman and was entirely consensual, but she later made a complaint to the police that she had been raped – an allegation which he vehemently denies. The Crown Prosecution Service decided not to proceed with a case, citing insufficient evidence.