By Jim Fair

The following statement was released Tuesday, November 10, 2020, by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, signed by Cardinal Vincent Nichols:

The Catholic Church in England and Wales welcomes the Report from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse relating to the institutional response of the Church in its duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation.

We thank the IICSA Panel for their work. The Report will now inform the ongoing reform and improvement of safeguarding in all aspects of the Church’s life.

An important aspect of the Inquiry’s work was the voice given to victims and survivors of abuse, including the accounts which they gave of their subsequent engagement with the Church. Listening attentively to their witness testimony has brought into sharp relief the extent of the damage this sexual abuse has had on their lives.

We apologise to all victims and survivors who have not been properly listened to, or properly supported by us. By listening with humility to those who have suffered, we can contribute to the healing of the wounds of abuse, as well as learn from those most directly affected how we must improve the Church’s safeguarding standards, policies and procedures.

This is an ongoing task and one to which we are wholly committed. Child sexual abuse is a crime. It is a crime that requires committed vigilance and strict procedures to ensure reporting to the statutory authorities. This is the Church’s policy. It is also why our safeguarding work needs to be continually reviewed and improved. Where there have been failings and inconsistency in the application of our safeguarding procedures, we acknowledge these and commit to actions which will bring about improvement.

Abuse is an evil act against the most vulnerable; it must never be excused or covered up. Abuse committed against children and the consequent damage to people’s lives cannot be undone. For this, we apologise without reservation, and we are committed to listen attentively to the voices of those who have been abused.

This report is an important moment in our safeguarding journey in the Catholic Church in our countries. It will now be considered in detail by us, the Bishops, at our Plenary Assembly beginning next week so we can explore how to integrate the findings of this important Inquiry into the life and work of the Church in order to consistently safeguard children and the vulnerable.

Vincent Cardinal Nichols
President

Archbishop Malcolm McMahon OP
Vice-President

Links and Information

iicsa.org.uk/publications/investigation/roman-catholic-church
Read the report in full.

You can also visit the ‘Safeguarding’ section on our site:

National Catholic Safeguarding Commission Reporting Policy

If you are concerned about the welfare of a child or adult at risk, do not delay in contacting the police, using 999 if a child or adult is believed to be in immediate danger.

It is the policy of the Catholic Church in England and Wales to report all allegations of abuse to statutory authorities, regardless of whether the abuse occurred recently or in the past, or whether the accused person is living or deceased.

If you are in any role within the Catholic Church in England and Wales, you must refer allegations directly to the safeguarding office for your diocese or religious congregation, or directly to the Police.

If you are a member of the public, please refer allegations directly to the police and also to the safeguarding office in your diocese. The relevant Diocesan safeguarding office can be located using the interactive map on the links page of the CSAS website – www.csas.uk.net – contact details will be shown when you click on the relevant area of the map on this site.

You can also contact CSAS by telephoning 07855 123398 or via email at admin@csas.uk.net

Cardinal Nichols issued the video below (text included), giving a personal reaction to the report:

Full Text

Today, IICSA publishes its report into us – into the Roman Catholic Church.

It’s a difficult day, it’s a painful day. But most of all, I believe it’s a painful day for those who have suffered abuse in their childhood because those wounds are almost permanent – they run so deep and they will be re-awakened, I think, today.

So I thank IICSA for their work, for putting a light on things that have been hidden and helping us to see the next step of our journey in these terrible, difficult matters.

Most of all, I want to speak to anyone who has suffered childhood sexual abuse in the context of the Catholic community. I understand something… something… of what you live with and what you’ve gone through. I want to say again, how very sorry and distressed I am that this damage was done to you and done to you in our name. And I promise you that we will keep working.

I want people who have suffered sexual abuse to come forward and to come forward with some confidence that they will be listened to. It won’t be so difficult as it was in the past. But you will be listened to and you will be helped. Now we’re determined to carry on building the quality of our response to every single allegation of sexual abuse.

Independent Review

While IICSA has been doing its work, we have not been sitting on our hands. We have a fresh, independent review. And what’s very important about this, is that some of those who have survived this trauma in their lives have worked with it. They’ve had a noble spirit and they have become our wise counsellors. So that this review, which we will consider alongside all the recommendations of IICSA, is actually shaped by survivors. I thank those who work with us in this way because their contribution is vital.

Pain and Resolve

So today we share a lot of pain. Today we express a lot of resolve that we will continue solidly to work hard to improve our response because, you know, there’s no conflict between the pain and the life of a survivor and the health of the body of the Catholic Church. We have to take in that pain, embrace it, feel it, and know better how to respond. Today I thank all who work hard in safeguarding in the Church. I want everyone to know that our resolve to work on this is strong and firm and ongoing.

Bishops’ Meeting

With this report from IICSA and with the work of this new review that we’ve had, we bishops will be meeting next week and we will take the decisions that shape and point the way forward. Together we will continue to give our full attention and dedication to this.

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