IICSA Roman Catholic Investigation
Oral Closing for Core Participants represented by Switalskis Solicitors
The Catholic Church has proved itself incapable of self-governance in the protection of children in its care. We emphasize the impediments to self-governance presented by:
- Catholic teaching; Divine Law; Canon Law;
- Its hierarchical structure and reliance on one man at the head of each diocese as decision maker;
- Its culture of brotherhood, deference and forgiveness;
- Its unincorporated status.
We recommend, in summary:
The adoption into law of Mandatory Reporting as advocated by the organisation Mandate Now.
The creation of a new statutory body with powers to police and enforce basic standards of child protection. We envisage a body similar to the Health and Safety Executive.
A review of the powers of the Charity Commission and a body to take control of the gaps in legislation which are not filled by Ofsted, ISI, the DfE and the Charities Commission in relation to suspicions of abuse in schools. The lack of a safeguarding regulator or powers for these bodies on safeguarding was demonstrated by failures at Ealing Abbey and Downside.
The extension of ‘position of trust’ offences which we will expand upon in our written submission.
We agree with Adrian Child when he said to you on 13/12/17 [Transcript page 137]:
“..I don’t see any value in tinkering around the edges and saying, “Here you are. Here is a third opportunity [post-Nolan, post-Cumberlege]. Go away and sort this out yourself….there needs to be accountability and some kind of mandatory enforcement.”
That was almost two years ago.
During the currency of this Inquiry we saw Peter Houghton, Chair of the Safeguarding Commission in Westminster, comment about A711 in May 2017: “we need to keep playing the good practice card if we are to contain this person’s manipulative behaviour” [INQ004695_001]. That is at best, hypocritical. At worst, it reveals a deep cynicism towards complainants and safeguarding in general.
Take the troubling evidence of Vincent Nichols as an example. Mr Altman identified that in one breath he is announcing publicly, positive measures, whilst at the same time completely ignoring an intelligent woman with a legitimate request for help. If that is the attitude and practice of the leader of the Catholic Church, a man at the heart of Nolan, Cumberlege and well trained in safeguarding, what hope can we place in anyone else in the Church?
This Inquiry has only had the time and capability to expose a small fraction of the duplicitous behaviour of the Catholic Church. What would be unearthed if the men in black were genuinely penitent and handed over their scandals to the Inquiry?
Catholic Organisations have run out of excuses. The time has long gone when those I represent were prepared to give them a chance to get it right. We have seen a painful catalogue of abuse and cover up facilitated by their internal rules, self protection and bonds of brotherhood.
We hear again that more time is needed for the safe spaces support project , more time for Cumberlege, to wait for the General Decree, and more time for the Ian Elliott review. Even Mr Spears told us “There is normal time then there’s church time”. With the lack of audits between 2015 to 2018 it seems that time was standing still for Catholic safeguarding.
Had the Bishops and heads of religious come together at any time in the last 10 years and demonstrated a commitment to safeguarding by handing over accused clergy to the police, kicking them out of their church, casting aside canon law secrecy and showing they had achieved the recommendations of Nolan and Cumberlege in every diocese and Religious community we may have given them a chance.
The church’s processes, training and attitudes needed radical change. But the church is not radical. It is deeply conservative. It is not fit to be in charge of developing and enforcing its own safeguarding policies.
We heard from a number of witnesses that the Seal of the confessional cannot be broken and out-ranks canon law. Rome will never order the breaking of the seal of the confession where reports of child sex abuse are admitted. It has been recorded in evidence to the Australian Royal Commission that some Catholic priests would rather be imprisoned than break the sanctity of the confessional. The Catholic Church’s absolutist position on the confessional highlights the particular danger of this institution to children in its care. They accept this violates the paramountcy principle. At the same time, they are prepared, according to Vincent Nicholls, to die for it. Even the Anglican Church is prepared to accept mandatory reporting with no exception for the confessional.
Both Eileen Shearer of COPCA and Jane Dziadulewicz [Ja-Dully-Vitch], the Clifton safeguarding adviser, made it clear they were frustrated that guidance by the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service was simply that: advisory only. Common themes emerged from the evidence of the senior social worker, Mr Molesworth, the director of COPCA, Mrs Shearer, and the Clifton Safeguarding Adviser. Each cited barriers to achieving good Safeguarding within the EBC Abbeys and schools as being:
- CSAS lack of power to enforce the guidance;
- Abbots exploiting this lack of sanctions by obfuscating on disclosure and access;
- Clergy were reluctant to allow outsiders in. Mr Molesworth described Ampleforth monks as “secretive and resentful” of his presence;
- They found too much emphasis on forgiveness.
- Each asked the panel to implement Mandatory Reporting and for a body to be established to hold churches to account.
It is frankly insulting to those harmed by clergy for Gordon Read, the canon lawyer, to suggest that breaches of the CSAS guidance (even if it is elevated to canon law status with the General Decree) will result in a meaningful sanction for a Bishop. The only sanction he could point to was:
For the Papal Nuncio to speak to a Bishop or possibly that the Bishop would be contacted by the CDF.
This is hardly a sanction at all. Diocesan safeguarding co-ordinators will remain powerless. Their Bishop will still overrule them. We know from Jane Bertelsen that some Bishops are still hostile to CSAS and its rules from outside.
This is an organisation that trusts only to its own. It prefers those who have demonstrated blind loyalty and views inimical to child safety like Jane Jones in Birmingham and Peter Houghton in Westminster. It will try to sideline internal critics such as Messrs Haywood, Child and Sullivan. Dissent is not encouraged. Whistle-blowers are not tolerated.
I hesitate to spend time picking apart the many rules and contradictions which even the Chair of the NCSC was obviously struggling to interpret and instead refer you to the evidence of Edina Carmi who expertly established that there are mostly bad and a few good examples among the cases she audited. It was however worrying to note the trends she identified include a) a lack of support to victims b) poor record keeping c) a reluctance to carry out investigations, and d) conflicts created by clergy being appointed Diocesan Safeguarding co-ordinators.
In contrast, Ms Carmi showed us that perpetrators receive plenty of support with accommodation, legal costs, treatment, testimonials and an open-ended commitment.
Indeed the wide variation in standards from the appalling to the good demonstrates there is no ‘One Church’ policy, no minimum standard. Service levels are reliant on the vagaries of powerful individuals
As we said in opening. We need ‘one nation’ policies applicable to all institutions that care for children.
It is worth reminding ourselves of the relevant recommendations made in 2014 by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. This is a body interested in establishing minimum standards of child safeguarding :-
- The Holy See should ensure that clergy against whom allegations have been proven should be immediately suspended from duty or dismissed
- To take effective measures to ensure that where a credible allegation is made the police should be immediately informed.
- Rather than obstructing the police and civil authorities the Holy See should co-operate with the police in their investigations and should not continue to hide evidence from the police.
- The Holy See should ensure that a fair and adequate system of compensation is implemented to compensate victims of clergy abuse.
On every one of these measures the Church still firmly opposes progress. To date the only positive step taken in the UK on these stipulations is to agree the general decree which in theory obliges church officials to co-operate with the police. The lack of substantial sanction means that the Bishops whom Sister Jane Bertelsen believes are opposed to the outside imposition of rules will be able to ignore it. The Church has taken no steps to introduce a compensation scheme. Suspensions are rare and dismissals even rarer. Laicisation takes years.
Whilst the Catholic Church in the UK espouses good practice and has set up detailed guidance for its Bishops, in truth these can be ignored without real sanction. Without state level enforcement of mandatory reporting Bishops will continue to have the final say on whether allegations should be reported to the police.
The implication of all this is that so long as the Catholic Church is engaged in the care and education of children, it poses an unacceptable risk to children. We reserved our position at the outset of this Inquiry but since hearing of the dangers of the confessional, the powerlessness of the Diocesan Safeguarding Co-ordinators, the lack of sanctions for priests, the reluctance to report to police and LADOs, the failure of the church in the international sphere to take steps to sanction errant priests, we are firmly of the view that faith-based education is not conducive to the safety of children and that schools should be removed from Church control and governance.
By any measure the Catholic Church is not fit to be entrusted with our children. But the Catholic church is not alone. There are many other organisations in the same category whose disinterest in the safety of children in their care has been ignored for too long by legislators. Self-regulation in safeguarding is a failed experiment and we need strong legislation to enforce basic standards and to impose meaningful sanctions for breach. A minister at Cabinet level to develop and enforce children’s rights would be a step in the right direction.
We invite the panel to consider the creation of a new statutory body to police and enforce minimum national standards of child-safeguarding. We envisage such a body having similar powers to the Health & Safety Executive. The Health & Safety Executive operates for the safety of workers. Children are an even more vulnerable group. The absence of a powerful statutory body dedicated to their protection is a serious defect.
The introduction of compulsory incorporation will establish a system of accountability and will deal with unincorporated organisations such as churches.
Such a body will:
- Establish a register of relevant Institutions that look after children.
- It will be an offence to look after children without being on the register.
- To be on the register institutions have to introduce a corporate structure.
- “regulated” institutions will be forced to adhere to minimum safeguarding.
- The body will have the power to prosecute regulated organisations for breach of this guidance (similar to HSE prosecutions). Fines will be imposed.
- All corporate complaints will be captured by Mandatory Reporting legislation.
- The body will gather information from complainants, regulated institutions and third parties. It will have the power to compel disclosure of material.
- It will liaise with and assist civil authorities such as the police and social services. It would ensure the police and other statutory organisations are taking appropriate action within reasonable timescales. It will have the power to compel the police to investigate and refer cases to the CPS.
- It will have the power to make an award of compensation via new redress scheme. It will decide the support to be offered to the complainant. It will investigate the complaint using the balance of probabilities as the standard of proof. There will be no statute of limitations. A scheme will be established to provide adequate compensation for victims of child sex abuse which takes into account the effect on quality of life and a series of other relevant factors (as opposed to the rigid CICA system).
- Complainants will be allowed to take advice from lawyers and a contribution towards legal costs will be awarded.
- The cost of the body’s work will be assisted by a levy on the institutions. The cost of awards of support, reparations and legal costs in each individual case will be recouped by the state direct from the organisation which was vicariously liable for the perpetrator.
- It will provide to Government regular reports on its progress and, inter alia, the extent to which its activity is promoting the UK’s obligations under the UN convention on the Rights of the Child.
We have exhausted all attempts at self-regulation. It has failed. Attitude and practice has not improved, even during the currency of this Inquiry.
Our recommendations are ones of necessity, to redress the power-imbalance between children and large institutions that would seek, for their own purposes, to care for them. It is the role of the state to protect the weak and the vulnerable. Nobody else can or will.
The burden is now upon the Catholic Church to demonstrate to you why we are mistaken. This, now, is their last opportunity, through their leading counsel Ms Gallafent QC, to address you in public on this matter. We anticipate that, on past form, they will say little or nothing of substance.
8th November 2019