Safeguarding arrangements patchy in Catholic Church

The Catholic Church is still failing to adequately protect children and vulnerable adults from abuse five years after a review called for improvement, says a new report.

An independent review published today by the Cumberlege Commission, which follows on from a 2001 review of child protection in the Catholic Church, said the church had adopted a “pick and mix” approach in which child and adult protection policies they were prepared to follow.

It said the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults’, the church’s child and adult protection body, had “not extended” its reach to parishes, while safeguarding vulnerable adults needed “serious attention.”

The review also found some bishops and congregational leaders complacent about the child and adult protection agenda. A lack of willingness to be trained and resistance to change among the group had “impeded the delivery of consistently good – let alone excellent – safeguarding arrangements”, it said.

The 2001 Nolan review called for the Children Act 1989 principle that the child’s welfare should always be paramount. But Cumberlege found this was “not yet universally accepted” in the church and there were inconsistencies in its implementation.

Baroness Julia Cumberlege, head of the commission, defended the church’s lack of change. “Five years to try to change the culture of an organisation isn’t very long. That [the 2001 report] was stage one; this is stage two.”

She said COPCA was a small body and its limited reach was “reasonable, given the task in hand”. “They have been asked to do too much,” she said.

Richard Scorer, the lawyer who in 2000 represented the victims of Father Michael Hill, a Catholic priest who abused nine children, said: “There has been some progress, but nothing like enough. Overall, the church is still struggling to implement child protection philosophy which became second nature for secular agencies many years ago.”

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, welcomed the publication of the report and said that the Catholic Church would make a more formal response to its findings “once the best way forward has been discerned”.

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 Amy Taylor 


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