Promoting a Culture of Safeguarding
All allegations of abuse reported to the Church in England and Wales are immediately passed on to the police or social care. The Church works closely and cooperatively with the statutory authorities as these allegations are investigated. Following this investigation, which follows UK law, the Church conducts its own internal investigation, following Canon law.
The safeguarding of children, young people and adults at risk is at the heart of the Church’s mission. There is no place in the Church, or indeed society, for abuse, a grievous crime which can affect people for their entire lives.
Survivors and victims come first. This has not always been the case. The Church deeply regrets all instances of sexual abuse and the abuse of children and adults and accepts that grave mistakes were made in the past.
As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI told English and Welsh Bishops during his UK visit in September 2010: ‘Your growing awareness of the extent of child abuse in society, its devastating effects, and the need to provide proper victim support should serve as an incentive to share the lessons you have learned with the wider community.’
Today, the safeguarding of children and the vulnerable is a Church priority from the top down, and there will be no place to hide for offenders.
In December 2013, Pope Francis, who has declared there should be ‘zero tolerance’ of abuse, and to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable adults and to respond to their needs with fairness and mercy.
The remarks reflected a considerable journey for the Catholic Church in England and Wales when it comes to safeguarding.
Today, the Church has a robust selection procedure for candidates to the priesthood and their training includes child and adult protection. Meanwhile, the Church encourages survivors and victims of abuse to come forward and supports them to do so.