Westminister Cardinal Nichols called on to resign

Lawyers acting for almost 50 child sex abuse victims have called for the resignation of England’s Cardinal Vincent Nichols.

The lawyers, Richard Scorer of Slater and Gordon, and David Enright of Howe and Co, made the call in a letter to The Tablet.

In the letter, they say ‘the Catholic Church‘ is failing its safeguarding responsibility and the way it treats survivors of sexual abuse.

They are particularly damning about Nichols’ dual roles as leader of the Westminister archdiocese and president of the Bishops’ Conference.

In their letter, Scorer and Enright state witnesses have described safeguarding in the Westminster diocese as dysfunctional and unsafe.

They also accuse the archdiocese of having a disdain for survivors.

Scorer and Enright say the responsibility for all this lies with the Nichols’ leadership; the buck stops with him.

“The charge sheet against Cardinal Nichols is a long one.”

“Having failed in his leadership roles in both Birmingham and Westminster, he cannot credibly lead the Catholic Church on these issues in the future.”

“The systemic problems in the Catholic Church in relation to safeguarding are not capable of resolution by a single individual. But the Church needs leaders who command respect on these issues; Cardinal Nichols does not.”

“It is clear to us, and those we represent, that the time has come for him to step down.”

Scorer and Enright claims come following Nichols’ lengthy evidence at last week’s Independent Inquiry into child sexual abuse.

Evidence given at the hearing revealed

  • the safeguarding office is under-resources
  • the safeguarding office is dysfunctional with at one time the safeguarding officer and safeguarding advisor not talking to one another
  • that the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission link person considered safeguarding in the Westminister archdiocese being in a “dangerous situation”
  • that Westminister archdiocese was not a safe diocese
  • the Commission’s link person tried to meet Nichols but was blocked.

In the course of the hearing, Nichols revealed that now, some 12 years later, the implementation of the “Cumberlege Report”; an independent safeguarding review, is now only being organised.

Also revealed is that a code of conduct for clergy has taken 12 years to develop and is still not completed.

Baroness Nuala O’Loan, chair of the Catholic Council for Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse responded saying that it was wholly inappropriate to comment publicly while the hearing continued.”

“In due course the Chair and Panel will prepare a careful and balanced report and it is wholly inappropriate to pre-empt that in any way which would undermine the work of the Inquiry.”

“It is its job to weigh up and consider the matters before it, taking into account the views of the Church before doing so. CCIICSA is concerned that this letter seeks to prevent and undermine that process,” said the baroness.

Nichols came away from the hearing admitting he had failed that the archdiocese had not done enough and said there was still much to be done.

He, however, said the culture of safeguarding is “radically different” from 12 years ago, but accepted there is much much more to achieve.

Earlier in the year Nichols also gave evidence to the inquiry in relation to his period as archbishop of Birmingham.

In its report on the archdiocese of Birmingham, published in June, the inquiry concluded that Nichols had defended the reputation of the church rather than protecting children amid allegations of sexual abuse.

The cardinal “focused too much on the reputation of the church during his tenure, rather than the welfare of children and the impacts of child sexual abuse on victims and survivors”, the report says.

“Children could have been saved from abuse if the church had not been so determined to protect its own reputation above all else.”


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