Archive for Catholic Church

Show of sympathy for O’Brien in Scottish Catholic Church betrays victims

One of the men sexually assaulted by Cardinal Keith O’Brien has attacked the Roman Catholic Church for its actions following the revelations about O’Brien, the former leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland.

It came out in 2013 that O’Brien had been sexually inappropriate with a number of men, some of whom were junior priests within the Catholic Church. One had to leave the Church when he realised that O’Brien, Would always have power over him’, while another needed long-term counselling after the actions of O’Brien. The Cardinal subsequently stated that his sexual conduct had ‘fallen below the standards expected of me.’

Following the revelations, O’Brien resigned as archbishop. Donations to the Catholic Church in Scotland dropped, to the point where the poorest church in Edinburgh was forced to close.

The Times reported on Sunday that O’Brien is currently living through his retirement in a house in Northumberland bought by the archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh. He remains a cardinal. A number of senior figures in the Scottish Catholic Church have emphasised forgiveness in the case. A report by Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, which investigated allegations of sexual misconduct, remains unpublished.

This has prompted one victim of O’Brien to condemn the Church, stating that, ‘The Vatican seems to be playing the old game.’

‘This emphasis on forgiveness is insulting,’ O’Brien’s victim said to The Times. ‘What about justice? Truth? There has to be accountability. Justice has to be seen to be done and further down the line we might talk about healing. Yes, healing is important, but this is the last stop on the bus route, not the first. There are many stops on the route.’

Despite Pope Francis seemingly supporting a more open Catholic Church, the O’Brien case shows that substantive change has yet to take place. Victims are still secondary to the Church protecting its own reputation and its own notorious priests. Self-interest continues to reign supreme at the Vatican.

David Greenwood speaks out as Pope meets sex abuse victims

On Monday, Pope Francis met victims of sexual abuse by the clergy for what is believed to be the first time since his election as pontiff. He invited six victims of abuse to a special Mass in the Vatican before a special meeting with himself.

The move is the latest in the new Pope’s efforts to engage with those who found themselves suffering at the hands of the clergy of the Catholic Church after widespread condemnation of his predecessors’ brushing the issue under the carpet. In recent months the Pope has made gestures of reconciliation to survivors of the abuses of his church as well as denouncing sexual abuse. However, these gestures are too little too late. David Greenwood, Switalskis Partner and Chairman of the Stop Church Child Abuse campaign, has said, “Why isn’t Francis knocking on the doors of my clients [who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of the clergy] and begging their forgiveness? This is another stunt.”

David, who has acted on behalf of many survivors of clergy abuse and who has been instrumental in changing the law to ensure that Church organisations are responsible for the actions of their agents, feels that the olive branch offered by the Pope to a small number of survivors is insufficient:

“I cannot understand why any survivor of clergy sex abuse would want to meet the Pope. My view is that the Pope should be visiting them in their own homes and begging their forgiveness.

“Successive Popes have made and promoted rules for Bishops and priests which have shielded clergy from investigation by the police throughout the world. The church’s lamentable behaviour has been criticised by survivors, lawyers and now two United Nations committees [the Committee for the Rights of the Child and the Committee against Torture] yet Pope Francis and other senior clerics continue to defend the Church.”

He finished: “The Pope now has an opportunity to put his organisation’s house in order by acknowledging the UN’s criticisms and implementing their recommendations but sadly I very much doubt he or his officials are serious about promoting child protection.”

Gestures such as the Pope inviting survivors to a private audience do not address the serious issues which have plagued the Catholic Church for many years. Though gestures may go some distance to rehabilitating the Church’s image in the public eye, they do not act as any kind of child protection measure, nor do they help to heal the deep wounds which the actions of the clergy have caused. For years the Church has avoided taking responsibility for its actions and failures and this appears to be just another smokescreen which hides the fact that there is no revolution taking place with regards to the established approach to the very real problems of child abuse.

David Greenwood commented, “I will continue to work alongside other campaigners to improve safeguarding in churches and to improve churches’ responses to survivors who came forward as adults.”

Roman Catholic child abuse record under spotlight at United Nations

UN Committee Against Torture – report due 23rd May 2014


The UN committee against torture will report on today on the Holy See’s record on torture.

During exchanges on 5th and 6th May 2014 members of the committee against torture repeatedly pressed the Vatican representative on it’s record on child abuse.

The committee are likely to recognise the sexual abuse of minors and women by clergy as torture within the definition of the convention.

Committee members accused the Holy See of having effectively allowed child abuse by clerics to go unpunished with weak systems of investigation, punishment and high level failures to report allegations to the police.

Since 2001 the Roman Catholic Church has been engulfed in child abuse scandals in almost every country worldwide involving not only abuse by priests but also Bishops and the Vatican covering up child abuse.

Critics of the church accuse it of covering up child abuse and fostering an environment in which priests feel able to abuse children without fear of being turned in to the police. Non governmental organisations such as Survivors Voice-Europe based in the UK and SNAP from the US gave evidence to the committee regarding these issues.

Holy See representatives responded by failing to properly answer most of the questions posed by the committee and putting forward an argument that it’s obligations under the convention are confined only to the small area of land in Rome known as the Vatican City. This assertion was unanimously dismissed by the committee.

Sue Cox of commented:

“I represent hundreds of survivors of child sexual abuse and gave evidence this Torture committee and earlier to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

“The response of Vatican representatives has been truly shameful. They have displayed no regret and have tried to lie their way put of the many awkward questions put to them by this committee of world renowned experts.

“Francis has an opportunity to change church rules and culture but the signs are not good. Rather than engage with the UN and heed its criticisms he has tried to defend the indefensible. I hope the UN will take action to shame the church into action.”

David Greenwood, child abuse solicitor with Switalskis Solicitors and children’s rights campaigner with commented:

“Rules promoted by successive Popes require secrecy when dealing with child abuse allegations. This protects abusers from the police. Priests have been moved between dioceses and countries to avoid detection. This has led to a culture in the church in which priests feel able to abuse children without fear of being reported to the police.

“The church has taken no practical steps to improve child protection and has ignored its UN obligations. The disingenuous response given to the committee illustrates the church’s lack of respect for the UN committee and child protection generally.

“The UN committee has the power to take action and thousands of victims of abuse worldwide are hoping for UN action against the Roman Catholic Church.”

For more information contact the following delegates who made submissions to the UN hearings:-

Sue Cox – 07813 808026 or

David Greenwood – 07712 304880 or

Cambridge Union debate – full speech

On 24 April David Greenwood, head of the Child Abuse Department at Switalskis and noted solicitor with a nationwide reputation for excellence in his field, took part in a debate at the Cambridge Union Debating Society. He was an opponent of the proposal “This House believes the Catholic Church is a force for good.” The full text of his speech may be found below.

I am a solicitor working on behalf of victims of child abuse.  I also campaign for the rights of abuse victims and in particular for a public enquiry into the extent of abuse in the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England and the cover ups which have taken place.  The reality is we don’t know for sure how bad the Roman Catholic Church has been in the UK.  Inquiries in Ireland and Australia have revealed the shocking extent of child abuse by clergy.

The Roman Catholic Church has undoubtedly harnessed the inherent good in citizens.  The problem is, is that it behaves like the most rampant, power thirsty, blue chip company on Wall Street.  It has managed to do this in a legal dimension that has allowed its behaviour to go unchallenged until recently brought to account by the United Nations.  Its leaders have been ignored by the International Criminal Court and by governments despite the harm it has done in many societies.  The Holy See’s status as a member state of the United Nations has allowed it to hide behind the mask of sovereign statehood.  Even when criticised and asked to mend its ways by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child it faces the other way, refuses to engage and continues to pursue its narrow and harmful doctrines (which I will mention shortly).  I should say that the Holy See tells us there are 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide.

Essentially when faced with a conflict between doing moral good or preserving its numbers and promoting its growth the church chooses itself every time.

Rather than promoting independent thought in its followers and rather than rely on the inherent attractiveness of the positive experience that religious belief can offer, it engages in what can only be described as psycho-terror.  Its followers are locked in to feelings of chronic fear of sin, guilt and worry.  It requires its followers to integrate new born children in to its organisation.  It operates a totalitarian regime of coercion.  It enforces the concept of sin.  Committing sin and failing to seek absolution from one of its foot soldiers (priests) will lead to eternal damnation.  Penalties are imposed for breaches of an outdated ethical code; for example homosexuality.

Some of the Partners in my law firm actually go along with this stuff probably because it was drummed in to them as children.  This is a measure of the success this indoctrination has achieved.  The church teaches children to believe in sin and eternal damnation from around the age of 7 when children are required to take to a confessional box weekly.

Married couples pledge to bring up the children of the marriage in the faith and so the system of continued psycho-terror is self perpetuating.

I should say at this point that it is my view that continuing to enforce the church’s threats of eternal torment in hell causes widespread psychological harm and that this is an offence punishable by the International Criminal Court as a crime against humanity.  The ICC has been invited by me and two German lawyers to pursue the prosecution of Mr Ratzinger.

30 million Africans have died from HIV AIDS in the last twenty years.  Millions of Catholics live in areas affected.  Rather than protecting its congregation the church has opted to allow continued free procreation in order to swell its numbers.  The Catholic Church forbids the use of contraceptives and condoms.  Successive Popes since the 1980’s have ignored the obvious capacity it has to change its view and to save lives.

The sexual abuse of children by Priests has been a regular occurrence through living memory.  The question for the church in this is how did it react?  Did it recognise that a moral way to look at the problem would be to confront it, open up its doors, root out abusers and change its system?  On the contrary, the church feared the damage that could be done if all this abuse were to be revealed to the outside world in its full extent.  The church has hidden statistics, from us, from lawyers, around the world, from police and civil authorities and from the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.  Their tactic appears to have been:-


  1. To enforce secrecy via the 1962 crimen document subsequently endorsed by the three separate Popes in 2001, 2010 and 2013.
  2. To impose ludicrously feeble penalties on offending Priests.
  3. To fail to report paedophiles to the police and civil authorities.
  4. To challenge law suits vigorously.
  5. To protect and move priests against whom allegations have been made (and thereby expose other children to the risk of sexual abuse from Priests who have thereby escaped imprisonment).
  6. It has refused to disclose details of the size of the problem or how the Holy See has dealt with allegations internally.


These are just a few levels on which the Roman Catholic Church has proved that it has lost its way.  It has become more concerned with expansion and survival than the promoting of a moral message.  The Roman Catholic Church can no longer be thought of as a moral organisation.  Its treatment of homosexuals is discriminatory.  Women cannot enter the clergy.  I could go on.

A campaigning colleague of mine, Sue Cox who is in the audience was so struck by the behaviour of the church that she decided to apply the psychological test for narcissistic personality disorder to the Roman Catholic Church.  She found that the church appears to tick all the boxes:

–       It will exploit others without considering the cost of doing so.

–       It expects to be recognised as superior and special without superior


–       It lacks the ability to empathise with feelings of others.

–       It lacks the ability to view the world from the perspective of others.

–       It is angry when criticised.

–       It lacks shame.

Will the Catholic Church ever learn?

David Greenwood comments on the United Nations’ criticism of the Catholic Church

The United Nations’ denouncement of the Vatican’s record on child protection has been welcomed by David Greenwood of Switalskis’ Child Abuse Department.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (“UNCRC”) met in Geneva in January 2014 and heard evidence from a wide range of sources. David Greenwood, Switalskis Partner and leading campaigner for justice for victims of church-based child abuse, advised on non-governmental organisation (“NGO”) submissions to the Committee.

A submission to the UNCRC on which David Greenwood worked can be found at the link.

The report – which also criticised the Vatican’s attitudes towards homosexuality, contraception, and abortion – was damning in its appraisal of the Vatican, stating that the Holy See had adopted policies that had allowed tens of thousands of children to come to harm.

Many priests have escaped any kind of justice for their actions. The problem is not confined to one particular country, with Catholic abuse scandals occurring across the world. The common theme has been that the Catholic Church has consistently denied any responsibility for the actions of its priests and, in actions clearly designed to deny secular justice, has orchestrated cover-ups involving moving perpetrators to other locations, leaving them free to abuse again.

The report which looked into the Vatican’s child protection record expressed deep concern at a number of major failings and practices, including that of moving abusers to new locations. The main concern expressed, however, was that the Holy See did not acknowledge the scale of the problem, which has seen tens of thousands of children abused worldwide.

David Greenwood of Switalskis commented :”The Committee’s report and the way it highlights the failings of the Vatican is most welcome. It puts pressure on the Catholic Church at a time when the systematic abuse of children is in the spotlight and exposes the way the Holy See believes itself to be a law unto itself. The Catholic church now has a chance to come clean, to acknowledge it’s past failures and strip away the system which has led to cover ups and priests being sheltered from the justice in the courts.”

The rejection of secular law by the Vatican must change. A priest being recalled to the Vatican and defrocked whilst actively obstructing investigations by local law enforcement is not justice; the powers that be in the Vatican even blocked the release of papers to the UN for last month’s inquiry. The perpetual evasion of responsibility and abandonment of the victims of the abuses of its priests whilst failing to acknowledge there is a problem means that justice illustrated the deep institutional problem.

Pope Francis now has a chance to do something to prevent his church losing what is left of its credibility. We are now a month on from the UN Geneva criticism and there has been no action from his organisation.