956: New report on church child abuse

Zingcreed brings you this excellent piece of journalism from ‘The Independent’ without comment. It refers to the Catholic church in the UK. (On the same day a report came out in the US on the activities of a well-known cardinal.)

Catholic Church still prioritising own reputation over vulnerable children, abuse inquiry finds

Report accuses Cardinal Nichols of ‘caring more about the impact of child sexual abuse on the Catholic Church’s reputation than on victims’

Lizzie DeardenHome Affairs Correspondent@lizziedeardenTuesday 10 November 2020 18:23

The Catholic Church continues to prioritise its own reputation over the welfare of vulnerable children after decades of sexual abuse, an inquiry has found.

A report published on Tuesday said the Holy See refused to provide a witness statement and the most senior Catholic leader in England and Wales “cares more about the impact of child sexual abuse on the Catholic Church’s reputation than on victims and survivors”.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), which is examining historical abuse across different institutions and organisations, said the “true scale of abuse” is likely to to be far higher than reported incidents.

“This report finds that the Catholic Church repeatedly failed to support victims and survivors, while taking positive action to protect alleged perpetrators, including moving them to different parishes,” it concluded.

“Victims described the profound and lifelong effects of abuse, including depression, anxiety, self-harming and trust issues.”

Between 1970 and 2015, the Catholic Church received more than 900 complaints involving over 3,000 instances of child sexual abuse in England and Wales and since 2016, there have been more than 100 allegations each year.

Professor Alexis Jay OBE, chair of the inquiry, said some progress had been made but there needed to be lasting cultural change to avoid repeating past mistakes.

“For decades, the Catholic Church’s failure to tackle child sexual abuse consigned many more children to the same fate,” she added.

“It is clear that the Church’s reputation was valued above the welfare of victims, with allegations ignored and perpetrators protected.

“Even today, the responses of the Holy See appear at odds with the Pope’s promise to take action on this hugely important problem.”

The report was critical of Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who is the Archbishop of Westminster and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

IICSA said that he should lead by example as the most senior leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, but made “no acknowledgement of any personal responsibility to lead or influence change” while giving evidence.

<img src="https://static.independent.co.uk/2020/10/22/07/PRI169489439.jpg?width=982&height=726&quot; alt="<p>Pope Francis called for ‘concrete and effective actions’ against child abuse last year
Pope Francis called for ‘concrete and effective actions’ against child abuse last year(Getty Images)

“Nor did he demonstrate compassion towards victims in the recent cases which we examined,” the report added.

“He did not always exercise the leadership expected of a senior member of the Church, at times preferring to protect the reputation of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales and in Rome.”

IICSA’s report said it first requested a statement from the Holy See’s ambassador to the UK, the Apostolic Nuncio, over the handling of abuse at Ealing Abbey and St Benedict’s School.

The inquiry also sent its request to the Holy See through “established diplomatic channels”, with the government’s support.

No information was provided and when further requests were made ahead of wider hearings in late 2019, “the Holy See confirmed that it would not be providing a witness statement”.

It provided a document on measures to prevent child abuse, but IICSA said the information provided was “little more” than what was already in the public domain.

The inquiry has the power to compel evidence, but it does not apply to the Apostiolic Nuncio because the post has diplomatic status.

“The Holy See and the Apostolic Nuncio, its ambassador to the UK, did not provide a witness statement to this inquiry despite repeated requests,” the report said. “The inquiry could not understand their lack of cooperation.”

IICSA said the response appears to stand in direct contrast with Pope Francis’ public statement on child sexual abuse in 2019, which called for “concrete and effective actions that involve everyone in the Church”.

The Apostolic Nuncio at the time, Archbishop Edward Joseph Adams, retired from the post in January. ‘I beg the Lord’s forgiveness’ for child abuse ‘betrayal’ says Pope Francis at a service in Knock, Ireland

Time and again, IICSA was told that attempts to complain of sexual abuse were dismissed by senior Catholic priests.

In one case, the mother of an alleged victim was told to “go away and pray” for the abuser in question, and to “not bring any scandal on the church”.

Another woman described being “groomed” by her priest from the age of 15, who sexually abused her on church grounds, including in front of colleagues, who turned a blind eye.

The woman was later raped by the priest, the inquiry heard, but that her complaints to Cardinal Nichols were effectively dismissed.

She later discovered she was being described by the church behind the scenes as “deeply manipulative” and “a needy victim”.

Responding to the report, Cardinal Nichols said he recently offered his resignation to the Pope because of his age after turning 75, but that the offer was turned down.

“I have received a very unequivocal reply, and that is that he tells me to stay in office here, so that is what I will do,” he told the PA news agency.

“We accept this report, we are grateful to IICSA for bringing the light and giving public space to those who have been abused, we are deeply sorry this happened.

“Together as a body we are really sorry – really sorry – for all that has happened over these years and I want to assure everyone we are here to learn and improve, and to keep that steady improving response going.”

The report said that senior leaders had been “resistant to external oversight” and only partially implemented the recommendations of previous reviews.

“Failure in some of these areas contributed to more children experiencing actual abuse and many others being exposed to the risk of sexual abuse,” it added.

The report made seven recommendations, including mandatory safeguarding training for all staff and volunteers, and for the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service to be externally audited.

The inquiry continues to examine the extent to which institutions and organisations have failed to protect children in England and Wales from sexual abuse.

A final report of overarching findings from all 15 sections of the investigation is due to be laid before parliament in 2022

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