UK report into child abuse says Catholic Church put reputation first

The latest report from the UK’s Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has criticised the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales for often prioritising its reputation over victims of abuse.

According to the findings of the IICSA, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, sometimes cared more about the impact of abuse on the Church’s reputation than on the victims.

The cardinal said the church was “deeply sorry this happened”.

The record of Cardinal Nichols as Archbishop of Birmingham from 2000 to 2009 and after as Archbishop of Westminster was examined by the inquiry.

It found that although he apologised for the Church’s failings during an IICSA hearing in 2018, he did not show any personal responsibility or show compassion for victims in the recent cases it examined.

During the hearing Cardinal Nichols said that he had met several victims but those who gave evidence to the inquiry said he was reluctant to speak to them.

The report said that two previous inquiries into abuse in the Church, by Lord Nolan in 2001 and Lady Cumberlege in 2007, had brought change and improvements, but their recommendations had been implemented too slowly and not in full.

The inquiry found that between 1970 and 2015 the Church received more than 3,000 complaints of child sexual abuse against more than 900 individuals connected to the Church.

Those complaints involved more than 1,750 victims and complainants, though the report said the true scale of abuse was much higher and would likely never be known.

It was “far from a solely historical issue”, the inquiry found, adding that more than 100 allegations of abuse had been reported each year since 2016.

The Catholic Church’s “explicit moral purpose has been betrayed by those who sexually abused children, and by those who turned a blind eye and failed to take action against perpetrators”.

It said the cardinal, who apologised for the Church’s actions when he gave evidence, “did not always exercise the leadership expected of a senior member of the Church, at times preferring to protect the reputation of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales and in Rome”.

It added that Cardinal Nichols had shown “no acknowledgement of any personal responsibility to lead or influence change”.

The long-lasting IICSA, which is examining the problem across British institutions and society, published similar findings about the Church of England last month.