Cardinal faces legal action over safeguarding case


November 17, 2020

By Catherine Pepinster

An abuse survivor is to sue the Diocese of Westminster, including its archbishop, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, for personal injury because of the way she was treated when she asked to have access to her own safeguarding files. The claim is believed to be a highly unusual action.

The decision by A711 came as the bishops of England and Wales were due to meet on Wednesday for an all-day discussion on the highly critical report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) on the Catholic Church, published last week. It said the Catholic Church had betrayed its moral purpose in its neglectful handling of abuse cases and the way it treated survivors. It singled out Cardinal Nichols in its report, saying that he showed “no acknowledgement of any personal responsibility to lead or influence change” and failed to be compassionate to victims.

Cardinal Nichols said in television news reports that he had tendered his resignation to Pope Francis who had asked him to stay on. But the resignation was caused by him reaching 75, the date for episcopal retirements, rather than the comments made about his handling of the abuse crisis.

According to A711, it was Cardinal Nichols’ response to the report that was “the last straw” for her and led to her decision to press for damages. “The fact that he resigned because he is 75 not because of the report has made me think there must be some sort of accountability, and I hope that’s what this action will bring about,” she said.

When A711 asked to see documents relating to her case of abuse, disparaging emails from Westminster diocesan staff were discovered and efforts to see further documents were blocked until recently. Requests to speak to the cardinal went unheeded until a newspaper reported on her case.

“I have catalogued a long list of problems about the way they have treated me over the last four years”, she said. “They retraumatised me. They can’t keep treating survivors like this”.

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