UK Cardinal more concerned about Church image than victims

The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, stands accused of putting the Church’s reputation ahead victims of child sex abuse.

The accusation, 20 June, came in a government inquiry report.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) concluded that children could have been saved had the Catholic Church not “repeatedly failed” to alert the police to allegations.

The report covers the time when Nichols was Archbishop of Birmingham.

It identifies that since the 1930s more than 130 allegations of child sex abuse were made against 78 people in the Archdiocese.

At least 13 have been convicted and three others cautioned.

The report says the true level of offending is probably much higher and “in some cases, the lack of action by the church meant that the abuser was free to continue to commit acts of child sexual abuse”.

It also says that Nichols failed to prioritise the welfare of children over the reputation of the church.

The Chair of the inquiry, Professor Alexis Jay, says he is “truly shocked”.

“Victims and survivors’ allegations were mostly ignored for years, while perpetrators avoided prosecution.

“It is clear that the church could have stopped children being abused if it had not been so determined to protect its own reputation. We hope this report will help ensure that never happens again.”

In particular the report identified a row between the Archdiocese and the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults (COPCA), leading to mistrust and a poor working relationship between the two parties.

It referenced a prolonged argument regarding the identity of an anonymous priest and said Nichols should have intervened to resolve the matter.

Pointing out inadequate record keeping, survivors continue to accuse the Archdiocese as “still falling short in its child safeguarding arrangements.”

“They have to get their act together. Children are inherently unsafe in that place. That’s the thing that strikes terror into my heart.

“This is 2019 – I was abused 50 years ago and children are still in danger today. That can’t be allowed”, Peter Sanders a survivor said.

The Archdiocese of Birmingham released a statement saying: “We accept that we have failed victims and survivors of abuse and again apologise for the grievous failings we have made in the past. Apologies are just words though, if not backed up by action”.

It says it will review the reports findings and noted the Archdiocese has already made changes to its practices and processes “to ensure an open and compassionate approach to victims and survivors”.

Cardinal Nichols thanked IICSA for their review of the past and said that in his witness statements he addresses all the points contained in the report.

Nichols was Archbishop of Birmingham between 2000 and 2009.


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