Catholic Church urged to clarify ‘structural impediments’ to child protection

The Catholic Church should explicitly state if its organisational structure prevents it protecting children from sexual abuse, a lawyer for victims has said.

Christopher Jacobs said “there is a degree of urgency for this information to come out” as his clients believe the Church poses “clear and present danger to children”.

The Church’s attempts to build effective mechanisms since the Nolan Report in 2001 are “clearly not working”, he said.

His comments to a preliminary hearing at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) on Tuesday came as the Catholic bishops of England and Wales ordered a thorough review into safeguarding procedures.

Mr Jacobs, from Howe and Co, representing 36 anonymous core participants, told the preliminary hearing: “Those who instruct me take the view that the evidence so far presents a picture of the Church as a clear and present danger to children as it is structurally organised.”

He said the Church should give an official statement answering the concerns ahead of a public hearing into the Archdiocese of Birmingham beginning on November 12.

Mr Jacobs said: “Does the Church accept that thus far it has been unable to implement consistent and uniform child protection across England and Wales as a result of its structure?

“If it is accepted there are structural impediments to providing children protection the Church should be asked to state clearly if it believes that the structural obstacles can be overcome in an acceptable time frame.

“There is a degree of urgency for this information to come out.”

Senior bishops from England and Wales will discuss with Pope Francis

in Rome on Friday the failures of senior clergy to protect children, according to a statement.

The message, posted on the Catholic Church in England and Wales

website on Monday, said “an entirely independent and comprehensive review” of current safeguarding structures has been ordered.

It is to be carried out by the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission and will involve survivors, the statement added.

The public hearings should also examine procedures in the Church for dealing with priests who disclosed that they were sexually attracted to children, Mr Jacobs added.

The Birmingham Archdiocese case study is being examined as part of the Inquiry’s overall investigation into the Roman Catholic Church.

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