Huffington Post UK
Before the child abuse scandal of the last decade, Catholic priests held influential and highly respected roles within the community. They enjoyed the trust of the public and unquestioned access to children. We know that created extensive opportunities for sexual abuse.
What we don’t know is the true scale of that abuse. Child abuse is accompanied by fear and shame, and most victims never come forward. Only around 10% of sexual abuse allegations result in criminal convictions. And there’s a further reason, which is that for many decades the Catholic Church persistently ignored and in many cases covered up complaints of abuse. As a lawyer acting for victims, I’ve seen evidence of cover ups on many of my cases – victims warned against taking their complaints to the police, priests transferred away from parishes suddenly until complaints die down.
The Catholic church now maintains that it abhors child abuse and that it wants to root it out. If the Catholic church is serious about this – and I’ve no doubt that there are at least some in the church hierarchy who are determined to confront the problem – then in my view it has a responsibility to come clean about past abuse. And there’s a simple way for the Catholic church to do this – open its secret archives to the police.
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