CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE OF ENGLAND AND WALES
Statement on Safeguarding
Friday 20th November 2020
The account given in the IICSA Report of abuse known to be inflicted on children and adults at risk in the Catholic Church in England and Wales in the past 50 years is shocking and overwhelming. At our meeting this week, we Bishops have stood together in profound shame. We express our sorrow and contrition before God.
We have reflected on our need to reach out afresh to those who bear the wounds of permanent damage caused by this abuse. We commit ourselves to listen more intently to those who have been abused so as to learn from them and benefit from their wisdom. It is through learning from their testimony that hearts are changed.
We are grateful to those survivors who have come forward, not only to lay before us their experience of abuse, but to help us understand the depth of their pain. We invite anyone who has experienced abuse to come forward, no matter how long ago the abuse took place. We undertake to listen carefully to them with open heart and mind and support them on a journey of healing.
We have carefully considered the recommendations of the IICSA Report and formally accepted them. We have already begun work towards their implementation.
The IICSA’s generic hearings into the Church began last October. Around that time we commissioned an Independent Review of our Safeguarding Structures and Arrangements in the Catholic Church in England and Wales. This was carried out by Mr Ian Elliott, an experienced safeguarding professional who has worked across the world in this area.
This week, alongside the IICSA Report, we have also examined in depth the Final Report of the Elliott Review and fully accepted its recommendations. It is a searching analysis of our safeguarding work, in its weaknesses and strengths. It proposes a number of remedial and forward-looking recommendations, which accord with the IICSA Report’s own recommendations. The work of implementation will begin immediately. It will be carried out in close cooperation with the Religious Orders who play such an important part in the life of the Church.
In all our activities, our desire and resolve is to be a Church in which every child and vulnerable person is not only safe but nurtured into human flourishing. These recommendations present us with steps towards this goal. Key to them is a standards-based approach to safeguarding together with a specially commissioned national body with powers of effective audit and oversight of safeguarding in both Dioceses and Religious Orders. Everyone in the Church will be required to work to clear, published standards of behaviour and action. Most significantly, the Elliott Report has been fashioned with the participation of survivors of abuse. Their insight and wisdom has been crucial. We thank them for their great courage and generosity in working with us and we look forward to continuing this growing collaboration.
The Elliott Report builds on all that has been achieved in our safeguarding ministry in the past 20 years, achievements also recognised in the IICSA Report. Therefore we thank profoundly all who contribute to the work of safeguarding in the Church today: the thousands of Parish Safeguarding Representatives, the professionals who work in our Safeguarding Offices in every Diocese, the Safeguarding Commissions who oversee this work and give objective and professional advice to guide our decisions, the staff of the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service and those who serve on the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission. These, and many others, have contributed greatly to the current work of safeguarding in the Church.
Today, however, we acknowledge without hesitation, our failings, our mistakes, our lack of adequate cooperation. We express our deep sorrow and ask forgiveness, especially from victims and survivors. We affirm our resolve to effect the next step in our work of safeguarding and care for survivors. In prayer we turn to Christ the Good Shepherd, the fount of healing and compassion, asking that this moment of painful truth becomes a time of grace as we strive to fulfil the ministry entrusted to us as bishops in an unshakeable unity of purpose.
A Message from Bishop Paul Swarbrick
With the publishing of the IICSA Report (Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse in the Catholic Church, England and Wales) on Tuesday, we are made even more aware of the deep harm that individuals have suffered both at the hands of perpetrators of abuse and because of the way they have been let down by Church leaders. Sadly, this is not a new concern for us. The Report deepens our appreciation of the harm suffered and the need for more urgent and effective change.
The Statement issued by the President and Vice-President of the Conference of Bishops makes clear our position as Church leaders. We welcome the Report, thank the IICSA Panel for their work, and above all, apologise to those Victims and Survivors.
Any apology can only be authentic when it is accompanied by a firm purpose of amendment that actually bears fruit promptly through appropriate and effective deeds. Next week in our Plenary meeting we will give the Report our full attention.
For anyone in the Diocese of Lancaster who has been affected by the Report I commit myself to being available to meet and listen to you. Immediate and further support is available via our Diocesan Safeguarding Officer, Jane Robinson
Tel. 079 359 319 47
Also, ‘Safe Spaces’ – an independent service supporting Victims and Survivors of Church-related abuse. This is an independent service run by the charity Victim Support. Access is via
Tel. 0300 303 1056
I am deeply grateful to all in the Diocese who work to eradicate this evil and heal the wounds it has caused and is causing.
Bishop of Lancaster.
CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE OF ENGLAND AND WALES
Statement on the Publication of the IICSA Report
Tuesday 10th November 2020
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
Archbishop Malcolm McMahon OP