Fall in Catholic child abuse claims

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Jul 28 2010

by Ciaran Jones, Western Mail

CHILD abuse allegations in the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales fell in 2009, according to a new report.

And a senior Catholic priest in Wales said the figures, released in the annual report of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission, showed the church was dealing robustly with issues of safeguarding young people.

The Catholic church received 41 allegations of abuse relating to 43 alleged abusers and 52 victims in 2009.

The claims made in 2009 have so far resulted in one police caution or warning and one jail sentence.

There are investigations under way in 17 cases, while no action has been taken by the authorities in relation to 24 allegations.

Monsignor Robert Reardon, the administrator of the Archdiocese of Cardiff, said the report was evidence of how strongly the church was tackling allegations of child abuse, though he admitted there was still work to be done.

Monsignor Reardon, who is in charge of the day-to-day running of the church’s operations after former Archbishop Peter Smith moved to Southwark, said: “There is always work to be done. The intention of the Catholic church is to create and maintain a safeguarding culture.

“So it is not just a question of investigating allegations when they are made, but creating a culture which creates a safeguarding environment for children and vulnerable adults. That is very much a continuing and ongoing process.”

The report showed the majority of allegations related to abuse which is said to have happened in previous years. Of the 52 victims who made complaints in 2009, 18 were alleged to have been abused that year, compared to 21 of the 64 victims in 2008 who were abused that year.

The report said of the 43 alleged abusers, 26 were members of the clergy or religious orders, seven were volunteers, a further seven parishioners and three employees.

The types of abuse alleged included sexual, physical and emotional abuse, as well as two allegations related to images of child abuse – one regarding a priest and the other a volunteer.

Monsignor Reardon said the church wanted to stamp out allegations of child abuse altogether, and was working towards that with a rigorous approach to child safety.

He said: “One allegation is one too many, but certainly I think what you find now with the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales is that it has a robust safeguarding structure and this is built on the work of many people. 

“This is done both locally, on a voluntary basis, and by some skilled staff employed at national and diocesan level. Moving forward this creates a safeguarding culture.” 

The commission reported 50 allegations of abuse against children in 2008. 

Of the 51 alleged abusers reported that year, 30 were defined as members of the clergy or religious orders, seven as volunteers, six as parishioners and five as employees.

The NCSC was set up following a recommendation in a review of the church’s progress in implementing child protection procedures headed by Baroness Julia Cumberlege.

 The Catholic Church in England and Wales underwent sweeping reforms to its child protection procedures following intense criticism about the way it handled abuse scandals in the past. 

The Nolan report in 2001, ordered by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, former leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, made recommendations to stamp out paedophile activity in the church. 

Between 1995 and 1999, 21 of the 5,600 Catholic priests in England and Wales were convicted of offences against children. 

The NCSC report was issued after the Catholic church worldwide was rocked by sex abuse scandals, with victims coming forward in Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany and the US.

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