Catholic Body Reveals 150 Sexual Abuse Claims in England and Wales

By Catherine Lyst
The Scotsman [Britain]
Downloaded October 27, 2003

THE Catholic Church is investigating scores of new cases of alleged sexual abuse in England and Wales, according to a report to be published today.

The first report of the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults (COPCA) spells out at least 150 cases, ranging from allegations of inappropriate behaviour to cases considered serious enough to be reported to the authorities.

COPCA does not investigate allegations in Scotland and no equivalent body exists north of the Border.

Church leaders said yesterday they were not aware of any ongoing Scottish investigations into child abuse allegations.

Eileen Shearer, director of COPCA, yesterday told the BBC that the figures for England and Wales could be much higher and that they only relate to dioceses.

Religious orders such as the Dominicans, Franciscans and Jesuits are not included.

A spokesman for the Catholic Church said some of the figures in the first of planned annual reports could relate to allegations of abuse going back a number of years.

COPCA, which was set up to address concerns within the Catholic Church in England and Wales, also found that nine out of ten Catholic parishes now have a child protection officer and each diocese has a child protection co-ordinator.

Peter Kearney, spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland, said that although no similar organisation existed north of the Border, the Catholic Church in Scotland has a comprehensive child protection structure that serves the same purpose.

He said Scotland has eight diocesan child protection officers and the Church is appointing child protection officers in all 550 parishes.

"We also have a 24-hour protection helpline and believe it is easy for anyone to approach the Church to make allegations," he said. "However, I am not aware of any on-going allegations."

He urged victims to report any incidents to the police.

Today’s report is the latest in a series of embarrassing revelations of abuse that have shaken the Catholic Church across the globe.

Last month, the Catholic Church in Boston agreed to pay more than 54 million to hundreds of people who claim they were sexually abused at the hands of priests.

It was the largest payment of its kind in United States history. However, with hundreds of cases pending across the country, it is likely to be just one of many such payments.

Dozens have also come forward in Ireland to claim they were abused by priests. However, one of the country’s biggest Roman Catholic orders denied yesterday that sex abuse was as widespread as had been claimed.

The Christian Brothers rejected what it called "the now-established perception" that large-scale systematic abuse had occurred in institutions it ran.

It stressed it had been openly acknowledged that "some abuse" had taken place. It said that while allegations had been made against large number of its members, the vast majority strongly rejected the claims.

The order maintained that more than 95 per cent of Christian Brothers had worked in ordinary day schools for up to 40 years without any allegation or hint of complaint against them.

The statement was backed by the organisation, Let Our Voices Emerge (LOVE), made up of people who were raised in Christian Brother establishments throughout Ireland.

A spokeswoman said the group wanted to show "the positive side" of being raised by the brothers, and denied abuse had been as widespread as alleged.

But the One in Four victims’ organisation said the Christian Brothers’ statement marked "a highly-regrettable backward step".


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