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Friday, Jan 22, 2021

Country’s top Catholic cardinal ‘prioritised church over sexually abused kids'

Country’s top Catholic cardinal ‘prioritised church over sexually abused kids'

England and Wales’ most senior Catholic leader prioritised the reputation of the church over the welfare of child sex abuse victims, according to a damning inquiry.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster Diocese, is refusing to resign despite the findings of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

It said the Church had shown a ‘grudging and unsympathetic attitude to victims’ – with the mother of one alleged victim told to ‘go away and pray’ for the abuser and ‘not bring any scandal on the church’.

The inquiry concluded that Cardinal Nichols ‘demonstrated a lack of understanding’ of the impact of abuse for some victims who had been assaulted by priests, and ‘seemingly put the reputation of the church’ above them.

The 162-page report into allegations involving the Roman Catholic Church found evidence of ‘repeated failures’, including a lack of adequate safeguarding and missed opportunities to stop abusers.

Between 1970 and 2015, more than 3,000 complaints of child sex abuse against more than 900 people connected to the Church were raised, said the report.

The Vatican’s failure to cooperate with the investigation ‘passes understanding’, said the report, despite abuse within the Church being ‘far from a solely historical issue’.

Since 2016, more than 100 allegations of abuse have been reported each year, it found.

Cardinal Nichols is now facing calls to resign immediately. He said he recently offered his resignation to the Pope due to his age but was told to stay in his post.

A woman prays at the closed doors of Westminster Cathedral – the mother church for Roman Catholics in England and Wales

In a statement, Cardinal Nichols and the archbishop of Liverpool, Malcolm McMahon, said: ‘We apologise to all victims and survivors who have not been properly listened to, or properly supported by us.’

The Cardinal asked for forgiveness and said the Church’s failure to deal with abuse had brought him personal shame.

But the report found he demonstrated ‘no acknowledgement of any personal responsibility to lead or influence change’, and that progress following reviews into the Church’s handling of allegations in 2001 and 2007 had been ‘slow’.

The report highlighted the case of Father James Robinson, a serial paedophile, who was moved to another parish within the Archdiocese of Birmingham after complaints were first made in the 1980s.

He later fled to the US but was extradited back to the UK where he was convicted in 2010 of 21 sexual offences against four boys and jailed for 21 years.

This strand of the inquiry was held over two weeks in October and November 2019, during which evidence was heard of vulnerable women being ordered to strip naked by priests offering ‘counselling’ sessions, who would then sexually assault them.

Time and again, the inquiry was told that attempts to complain were dismissed by senior Catholic priests.

Cardinal Nichols said he offered his resignation due to his age but was told to remain in his post

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’.

The report makes a number of recommendations, including mandatory safeguarding training for all staff and volunteers, and for the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service to be externally audited.

It said the subject of mandatory reporting – the legal duty to report allegations of child sexual abuse to the appropriate authorities, something Catholic Church leaders have opposed due to the ‘sacred nature’ of disclosure made during confession – will form part of the inquiry’s final, overarching report into abuse allegations across society.

In his evidence to the inquiry, Cardinal Nichols said: ‘I repeat, as I did last time, my sorrow and dismay and apology, unreserved apology, to those who have suffered the horror of child abuse within the context of the Catholic Church and those who have subsequently been treated badly by us.’

Cardinal Nichols said he would defend the seal of confession ‘absolutely’ when asked about the mandatory reporting duty.

He told the inquiry: ‘The history of the Catholic Church has a number of people who have been put to death in defence of the seal of the confession. It might come to that.’


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