Photo Credits: The Tablet
An official report published on June 19th concluded that children could have been saved in the Archdiocese of Birmingham had the Catholic Church not “repeatedly failed” to alert police to allegations. Several allegations of child sexual abuse have been made against 78 individuals associated with the archdiocese of Birmingham, with 13 people convicted of serious offenses. “The true scale of offending and the number of children who were abused is likely to be far greater,” IICSA said. It said that "in some cases, the lack of action by the church meant that the abuser was free to continue to commit acts of child sexual abuse."
According to the 65-page report, the archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, was heavily criticized for his inadequate responses to sexual abuse claims when he was archbishop of Birmingham from 2002 to 2009.
Nichols “focused too much on the reputation of the church during his tenure, rather than the welfare of children and the impacts of child sexual abuse on victims and survivors,” the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA) said. “Children could have been saved from abuse if the church had not been so determined to protect its own reputation above all else.”
Following publication of the report Professor Alexis Jay, chair of the inquiry, said: "I am truly shocked by the scale of child sexual abuse within the Archdiocese of Birmingham. The number of perpetrators and abused children is likely to be far higher than the figures suggest.
"Victims and survivors’ allegations were mostly ignored for years, while perpetrators avoided prosecution. It is clear that the church could have stopped children being abused if it had not been so determined to protect its own reputation. We hope this report will help ensure that never happens again."
Peter Saunders, founder of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) said: "They have to get their act together. Children are inherently unsafe in that place. That’s the thing that strikes terror into my heart. This is 2019. I was abused 50 years ago and children are still in danger today. That can’t be allowed."
In his evidence to the inquiry, Cardinal Nichols accepted that he did not, at the time, "acknowledge sufficiently" the fact that the broadcast gave "a platform to the voices of those who had been abused" and said that he would not issue a similar press release.
The Archdiocese of Birmingham released a statement saying: "We accept that we have failed victims and survivors of abuse and again apologize for the grievous failings we have made in the past. Apologies are just words though, if not backed up by action.”
Pointing out that church always protects its reputation instead of punishing abusers is obviously nothing new, but it must be stressed over and over again as long as it takes for sexual violence in churches to stop.