Church Sex Files 'Should Stay Closed'

BBC [Britain]
Downloaded October 16, 2003

A Roman Catholic Archbishop has said there is no reason to reopen the Church's files on sexual abuse for independent investigation.

The Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, was responding to calls made in the Kenyon Confronts programme, broadcast on BBC One on Wednesday night.

He said he was "profoundly sorry" for the damage done by the Church, but said its files should remain private.

Archbishop Nichols, who recently criticised sections of the BBC as "hostile" towards the Roman Catholic Church, said the programme should not have been shown on the eve of the silver jubilee of Pope John Paul II.

New cases

He said: "I appreciate the damage that is done by childhood abuse and the hurt that remains long after those events.

"I have personally met all but one of those mentioned in this programme. I am profoundly sorry for the injuries caused by Catholic priests."

But he added: "This programme also called for the Catholic Church's files on child sexual abuse to be opened to independent scrutiny.

"The programme implied that this would reveal significant numbers of new cases and new victims of child abuse.

"There is no evidence to support this opinion.

Police request

"The facts are that the files of the Archdiocese of Birmingham back to the 1950s were thoroughly inspected three years ago in order to make sure that there are no hidden cases.

"Files have been opened to the police on request."

The programme found more than half of Catholic priests surveyed said they thought the Church had dealt inadequately with alleged abuse by priests.

An ICM poll also found three-quarters of priests surveyed said their training had not prepared them for dealing with allegations of child sex abuse.

Just over half those questioned said they trusted the Church to take care of problems with its own clergy.

The Archbishop, who is chairman of the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults, recently said the Church still has "a lot to learn" about dealing with child sex abuse allegations.

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