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Catholic Church put reputation before child sex abuse allegations – inquiry

Written by on 10 November 2020

The Catholic Church in England and Wales prioritised its own reputation ahead of the welfare of children who made sex abuse allegations, an inquiry has found.

The Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) criticised “ongoing failings” within the church and said its “moral purpose has been betrayed by those who sexually abused children”.

It also condemned “those who turned a blind eye” and failed to take action against perpetrators.

The report stated that Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols – head of the church in England and Wales – “demonstrated a lack of understanding” of the impact of abuse.

He “seemingly put the reputation of the church first”, it added.

Responding to the findings, Cardinal Nichols told Sky News he was “mortified” and “ashamed at what has happened in the context of the Catholic Church”.

Addressing survivors, he added: “I want to promise you again, that we will do every single thing in our power to get our response right. I am very sorry.”

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Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, was criticised in the report

A number of recommendations made within the report include:

  • Safeguarding training becoming mandatory for all staff and volunteers working with children or victims
  • Regular refresher training that focuses on the impact of child sexual abuse
  • A request to the Vatican to redraft canonical crimes in child sexual abuse cases as crimes against the child instead of expressed as a crime of adultery
  • Publication of a national policy for complaints about the way in which a safeguarding case is handled
  • A lead member for safeguarding should be appointed to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and the Conference of Religious in England and Wales

The inquiry found that there have been improvements in the church’s response over the years, but more is needed to “embed a culture of safeguarding” and engage “hearts and minds” when it comes to child sex abuse claims.

Between 1970 and 2015 there were 931 allegations of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in England and Wales made by 1,753 individuals.

They involved more than 3,000 instances of alleged abuse made against 936 alleged perpetrators.

But the true scale of the abuse is likely to “be far higher”.

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The Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) criticised ‘ongoing failings’ within the church

It is estimated that the church still receives, on average, over 100 allegations every year.

During a number of public hearings held in 2019, the inquiry heard evidence from senior church leaders, safeguarding experts and survivors of child sexual abuse.

They detailed “ongoing failures” and missed opportunities to “respond promptly and properly” to complaints.

The inquiry was also told that “on too many occasions” there was “insufficient focus” on the needs of victims.

The report concludes that the church “needs to be more compassionate and more understanding of the lifelong damage that a child sexual abuse can cause”.