‘More than 50’ Catholic priests defrocked: more action required

More than 50 Catholic priests have been defrocked in England and Wales since 2001, new figures have shown.

But critics of the Church have hit out at the investigative process, saying that more needs to be done.

Although 55 priests have been evicted from the Catholic clergy since new rules were put in place to protect children and vulnerable adults, many more complaints have been received. In some cases, priests who have been convicted of serious abuse have not been defrocked and remain members of the clergy despite significant prison sentences.

This is still the case with Father James Robinson, jailed in October 2010 for 21 years after spending more than two decades on the run for his heinous crimes. Despite having spent almost five years in prison, the Catholic Church has yet to take action to remove him from their ranks.

The National Catholic Safeguarding Council’s figures also showed 79 separate allegations of abuse by the clergy last year, involving 83 suspects and 118 victims.

David Greenwood, Director and Head of the Child Abuse Department at Switalskis, is a long-standing campaigner against the abuses of the clergy. Speaking to the Yorkshire Post, he said, “Whilst both [the Catholic Church and Church of England] have improved their written policies and guidance there are really strong concerns about how that guidance is being implemented.

“It’s really down to individual bishops in their own dioceses when to report allegations to the police and what action to take.

“The number of recent investigations and prosecutions of clergy for abuse suggests this is an ongoing problem and the response of the church in the past leads us to believe they can no longer be trusted to police themselves.

“I’ve called for a number of years for a completely independent body to take complaints regarding the two main denominations. We may have to wait until the national independent inquiry (into child abuse) makes its recommendations to have something concrete on that.”

An independent body would be able to consider cases such as that of Robinson and take swift action to prevent the inertia that currently dominates the Catholic approach to child abuse. Despite the setting up of bodies such as the National Catholic Safeguarding Council not enough is being done to protect the vulnerable, nor is positive action being taken on the disclosure of abuse.

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