Catholic bishops in England, Wales set up new panel to curb abuse

La Croix International [France]

June 24, 2021

The panel is made of victims of clerical sexual abuse so as to ensure that their voices are heard and learnt from

English and Welsh Catholic bishops have established a new survivor reference panel against abuse.

The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales (CBCEW) announced that this new initiative will replace the Survivor Advisory Panel (SAP) of the now decommissioned National Catholic Safeguarding Commission, which has been replaced by the Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency (CSSA).

Previously, SAP provided the commission with advice on matters relevant to survivors and helped to highlight unidentified areas of concern to safeguarding professionals.

The new panel will support and inform the work of the CSSA by ensuring that the voice of victims and survivors of clerical abuse is heard and learnt from. The appointments to the new panel will be announced a later date.

This is part of the wide-ranging child protection reforms which the CBCEW decided in November 2020, after the publication of the Report from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) and the Independent Review of Safeguarding Structures and Arrangements in the Catholic Church in England and Wales, known as the “Elliot Review”.

The IICSA Report was published by the British Government and examined the extent of institutional failings by the Catholic Church in England and Wales to protect children from sexual abuse over the past 50 years and the Church’s current safeguarding regime.

The review was carried out by Ian Elliott, an experienced safeguarding professional who has worked across the world in this area.

“At the centre of our work is ensuring that victims and survivors voices are heard. This refreshed Survivor Reference Panel is one important part of our overall engagement with victims and survivors, who we will seek to engage with in a number of different ways,” said Nazir Afzal, a former Chief Crown Prosecutor who bishops appointed as the first Chair of the CSSA in May.

Two members of Catholic Survivors England, who were core participants at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse, have welcomed the announcement.

“We hope that it is a positive indicator of the Church’s commitment to increased engagement with survivors, so that Ian Elliott’s recommendation that ‘it is imperative that those who have been harmed through their involvement with the Church is heard and learnt from’ is fully implemented and embedded in the culture of CSSA from the outset.”, they said in a statement.

Earlier, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales had been criticized for caring more about the impact of abuse on the Church’s reputation than on the victims.