UK bishops outline their new safeguarding work plan

The Catholic bishops of England and Wales have outlined their plan to change their safeguarding work.

The change in approach comes just days after a report from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) lambasted its safeguarding structures and poor treatment of survivors. The work was led by safeguarding consultant Ian Elliott.

In the “Elliott review”, Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, is singled out for criticism.

Although survivors have called for him to resign, Nichols says he will stay while the Church reorganises its safeguarding work plan.

After the Elliott report was published, Nichols said the report “brought together a picture of abuse inflicted in the Catholic Church over a period of 50 years, together with detailed accounts of that abuse.

“It is a terrible picture. I remain shocked and ashamed. It is a reality that hangs like a dark cloud over my heart and mind.

“I know that the publication of the Report has renewed in so many the lasting pain and wounds they carry as a result of that abuse, no matter how long ago it happened.

“My first thoughts were and are for them. Indeed many have written to me in these last days. To each and every one, I express my profound sorrow and apologies…”.

The review recommends disbanding the current main bodies for safeguarding and replacing them with one institution, the Catholic Safeguarding Agency. This would be a regulatory body determining policy on safeguarding for all dioceses in England and Wales to follow.

A special body would safeguard religious orders.

There would also be a new National Tribunal Service to deal with cases under canon law.

The report recommended, “a structure that was underpinned by a commitment to a Church-wide adoption of a set of safeguarding standards” that would be “empowered to undertake its role as a regulator” and would monitor compliance of the dioceses and other church bodies.

A contract is needed in the absence of a recognitio being provided by Rome, which would enable a general law for the Church in England and Wales to enforce the same safeguarding regime across all dioceses.

In a press statement the bishops said they accepted the recommendations for change.

They expressed their sorrow and committed themselves to “listen more intently” to those who had been abused.

Archbishop McMahon, vice-president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, says Nichols has the bishops’ support.

One criticism involves the time it takes the Church to get things done.

The bishops responded saying “the work of implementation” would begin immediately.

So far, there is no timeline for the new safeguarding set-up.

“There is no presumption that their existing membership will have a part to play” in the new safeguarding agency, one bishop says.

There is much groundwork to be done and survivors will need to be consulted.

The report also notes child sexual abuse within the Church is a current problem.

It says since 2016, there have been over 100 reported allegations each year.


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