The Halifax Courier (UK – halifaxcourier.co.uk)
18 January 2012
Lawyer Richard Scorer.
Published on Wednesday 18 January 2012 11:45
A CALDERDALE lawyer is leading a campaign demanding the Roman Catholic Church open its “secret archives” on child abuse.
Richard Scorer, who lives in Hebden Bridge, is a senior solicitor with Manchester-based legal firm Pannone.
He is now heading a team of the country’s top lawyers in the field of child abuse, which this week has asked the Government to order a public inquiry to force the Catholic Church to open up its archives to scrutiny.
If successful, the Church will be forced to make public its closely guarded files which for centuries have remained under lock and key and for the eyes only of Catholic Church leaders.
Mr Scorer, who has a 20-year career acting in some of the most infamous Catholic Church paedophile cases, believes it is vital the Church becomes more transparent and accountable and sheds its cover-up culture.
He said: “We have seen clear evidence of cover-ups on some of our cases and we believe these are the tip of the iceberg.
“The culture of cover-up has been embedded in the Catholic Church for decades, if not centuries.”
He asaid the Church was “too compromised” and “failed to police itself effectively” and the only way to gauge the extent of sex abuse was to submit to a public inquiry.
“It will never be effectively challenged without full public scrutiny, something which only a pubic inquiry, with powers to documents, including each Catholic diocese’s secret archive can achieve.”
Mr Scorer said each diocese had a secret archive where complaints of sexual abuse made against its priests would be carefully documented.
“These secret archives, according to canon law, cover matters of morals and criminal cases and historically bishops have kept them under lock and key.
“What usually happens is once a complaint is made against a priest, that priest is moved to another area but then they are free to continue with their abuse with a new set of victims.
“The only way to break this cycle and address the scandal of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is through a comprehensive public inquiry and we are urging ministers to do this without delay,” he said.
Mr Scorer said he and his fellow solicitors were aware of 41 Catholic priests who had been convicted of serious sexual offences in “the recent past” but in many cases, the complaints of abuse had been covered up by the Catholic Church.
He said he and his fellow solicitors were heartened that their campaign received a boost from a high-profile figure within hours of being launched.
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, wife of the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg is throwing her weight behind it, urging for better protection for abuse victims.
The international lawyer is urging people not to doubt children’s tales of abuse.
Mr Scorer said he believed that because of the success of bringing paedophile priests to book, many more victims were now coming forward.
“We have made great strides over the years and thankfully more victims feel they can come forward without the fear of stigma or shame but there are still many people who are suffering and whose lives have been affected through sexual abuse.”
Lawyer Challenges Catholic Church to Open Secret Archives for Truth about Child Abuse
The Sacramento Bee
Published: Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012 – 7:37 am
By Pannone LLP
MANCHESTER, England, January 17, 2012 –/PRNewswire/ —
A leading ‘abuse case’ lawyer is challenging the Catholic Church to open its secret archives of documents for independent examination in order to discover the truth about child abuse by its priests.
Richard Scorer, a Partner and specialist in child abuse cases at Manchester law firm Pannone, says, “Every Catholic diocese has a secret archive which is kept locked and has in it secret documents. In the words of the Code of Canon Law, these documents are to be ‘protected most securely’ and contain, ‘matters of morals’ and ‘criminal cases’. Only the bishop is allowed to possess the key and the archive is only to be opened in a case of ‘true necessity’. It is my feeling and that of many of my legal peers that this moment of necessity is here.”
Says Mr Scorer, “It is like something from a Dan Brown novel, but this is not the Da Vinci Code, it is the Code of Canon Law and it has a bearing on the lives of hundreds probably even thousands of people. In every one of those archives there will be evidence of past scandals, if the Catholic Church really wants to help those children its priest’s may have abused in the past, it should open up its secret archives to independent investigation now and cleanse itself of its culture of denial and cover-up. ”
Canon489 of the current code of Canon law provides:
‘There is also to be a secret archive, or at least in the ordinary archive there is to be a safe or cabinet, which is securely closed and bolted and which cannot be removed. In this archive documents which are to be kept under secrecy are to be most carefully guarded.’
Canon law forbids any documents to be removed from the secret archive under any circumstances and only the bishop is permitted to have the key thereto. Accordingly, as only the bishop will know what is in the secret archive, it is obviously unsatisfactory for anyone else to make the disclosure statement.
Among the documents which must be kept in the secret archive for varying periods of time are:
- Documents from historic criminal cases (i.e. within Canon law) concerning matters of a moral nature
- Documentary proof of canonical warnings or corrections when someone has been about to commit an offence, or is suspected of having committed one, or has been guilty of scandalous behaviour
- Documents relating to preliminary investigations for a penal process that was closed without a formal trial
- Documents relating to any other matters the bishop considers secret.
SOURCE Pannone LLP