THE Catholic Church prioritised its reputation over the welfare of vulnerable children for decades, according to a report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).
The 147-page report, released on November 10, finds the Catholic Church's moral purpose was betrayed by those who sexually abused children - as well as those who turned a blind eye and failed to take action against perpetrators.
Between 1970 and 2015, the Catholic Church received more than 900 complaints involving over 3,000 instances of child sexual abuse in England and Wales.
Since 2016, there have been more than 100 reported allegations each year.
The true scale of abuse over the last 50 years is likely to have been far higher, according to the report’s authors.
The study found that the Catholic Church repeatedly failed to support victims and survivors, while taking positive action to protect alleged perpetrators, including moving them to different parishes.
Victims interviewed as part of the inquiry described the profound and lifelong effects of abuse, including depression, anxiety, self-harming and trust issues.
The report further states that Cardinal Vincent Nichols, as the most senior Catholic leader in England and Wales, has put the Church’s reputation over the protection of its young victims.
The IICSA said that despite his apologies for the Catholic Church’s failings in a 2018 hearing, “he did not acknowledge any personal responsibility or show compassion for victims in the recent cases we examined”.
At times, the report adds, Cardinal Nichols has shown he “cares more about the impact of child sexual abuse on the Catholic Church’s reputation than on victims and survivors”.
Professor Alexis Jay OBE, Chair of the Inquiry, explained their findings further.
“For decades, the Catholic Church’s failure to tackle child sexual abuse consigned many more children to the same fate,” he said.
“It is clear that the Church’s reputation was valued above the welfare of victims, with allegations ignored and perpetrators protected.”
He added: “While some progress has been made, there still needs to be lasting change to culture and attitudes to avoid repeating the failures of the past.”
The IICSA has made seven recommendations to better protect children in future, focusing on leadership, training and external auditing.