THE Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, has apologised to victims and survivors of abuse inflicted over 50 years in the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.
Cardinal Nichols was heavily criticised by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) in its final report on the RC Church, published earlier this month (News, 13 November). In his personal statement, read out last Friday to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, of which he is president, Cardinal Nichols said that the “terrible wickedness” of what had happened in the past was a “reality that hangs like a dark cloud over my heart and mind”.
To victims and survivors, he said: “I say this for many bishops who have gone before me over these 50 years. Many hearing this will feel that we let you down. Yes, we did let you down in many ways, in different times, in different places, for different reasons. I apologise again. I am so sorry for all that has happened over these years.”
He pledged to “revitalise our work of safeguarding, in order to correct our failings and build something better and stronger for the future”.
In the same meeting, the Bishops’ Conference issued a statement formally accepting the recommendations set out by IICSA. “We have already begun work towards their implementation.”
It also accepts the recommendations of a recently published Independent Review of Safeguarding Structures and Arrangements in the Catholic Church in England and Wales, carried out by Ian Elliott, who conducted a similar review of a specific case in the Church of England (News, 18 March 2016).
“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.”
The Bishops continue: “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.”