Catholic Church Receives 62 Claims of Child Abuse

By Jonathan Petre
Telegraph [Britain]
July 13, 2004

The Roman Catholic Church admitted yesterday that 62 allegations of child abuse were made against its clergy and workers last year.

The disclosure came from the unit set up to combat paedophile activity among Catholic priests in England and Wales after a series of scandals shook the Church.

The 62 complaints - mostly concerning alleged sexual abuse - were referred to the police after they were made about priests, members of religious orders, employees and volunteers.

In addition, 51 reports of "inappropriate behaviour" towards children were dealt with internally by the Church after consultation with police and social services.

Seven clergy were convicted for offences relating to abuse from cases referred in previous years, the unit disclosed in its annual report.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the head of the Church in England and Wales, was at the centre of controversy four years ago over the Michael Hill affair.

The Cardinal faced calls for his resignation after it emerged that, as a diocesan bishop, he ignored warnings and appointed Hill, who was later convicted for abuse, as chaplain to Gatwick airport.

The Archdiocese of Westminster faces fresh embarrassment after one of its priests, Fr William Hofton, who conducted Kenny Everett's funeral, was charged with abuse. He is expected to appear in court this week.

The Archdiocese said it had co-operated fully with the authorities in the case of Fr Hofton, who is based in a Hertfordshire parish.

Eileen Shearer, the director of COPCA, the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults, said there had been a "sea change" in the culture of the Church in dealing with abuse allegations.

"There is no quick fix . . . we have much yet to do," she told a news conference in London. "But this report shows that we have begun the journey towards the goal of making the Church as safe as possible in all its activities with vulnerable people."

The Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, who chairs the COPCA management board, said: "This report shows that the systematic work of child protection is proceeding steadily within the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales.

"It is essentially about building a culture of vigilance and practical care for everyone who is entrusted to us."


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