The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (“IICSA”) examined the Catholic run schools at Ampleforth and Downside, Ealing Abbey school, and the Diocese of Birmingham. It peered into their responses to child sexual abuse allegations.
The report cites a catalogue of sexual abuse of children, cover ups, protection of accused priests, belittling and threats of children, a refusal to report to the police and resistance to co-operate with the police where in the minority of cases they tried to investigate.
There are many other examples of appalling crimes across the country committed by Catholic priests which were covered up. I have investigated many including St Williams, Market Weighton, Fort Augustus, and St Mary’s College, Blackburn.
The report finds that the Catholic Church organisations failed to support victims of child abuse yet showed a willingness to protect perpetrators and the church’s reputation.
IICSA found the Catholic Church is resistant to external intervention, frequently moved offending priests from parish to parish, school to school or country to country. Throughout there was an unwillingness to alert the police.
There was a failure to act decisively to reports of child abuse. This consigned other children to the same fate.
The church did as little as it could get away with and it managed to cover up a number of cases.
Change has been resistant from the bottom to the top of the organisation. Leadership responses were at best weak. They are characterised by delay, a reluctance to acknowledge responsibility and grudging and unsympathetic attitudes to survivors. Vincent Nichols is singled out as a leader failing to set a good example.
The Inquiry cannot understand the lack of co-operation from the Pope’s ambassador to the UK who refused to speak to the Inquiry.
The Inquiry makes 7 recommendations similar to those made by the UN in 2014 concerning responses to safeguarding complaints and enforcement of internal rules.
In my opinion it is not acceptable for the Inquiry to give the Catholic Church a second or third chance by recommending it tightens up responses for itself.
The IICSA should, in its final report in 2021, recommend the imposition of oversight of safeguarding responses by the creation of an independent body with statutory authority to enforce good safeguarding standards. This is the only way the church will be forced to behave well.