The Archdiocese of Birmingham has apologised and committed to ‘do more and do better’ following its ‘grievous’ past failings in addressing abuse.
The vow comes following the publication of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse’s (IICSA) report on the archdiocese, which found that children could have been saved from sex abuse in the archdiocese if the Catholic Church had not been so determined to protect its reputation.
More than 130 allegations of child sex abuse have been made against 78 individuals associated with the Archdiocese of Birmingham since the mid-1930s, but the true scale of offending is likely to be far higher, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) concluded.
A statement from the archdiocese said it will study the findings and use them to ‘inform our ongoing commitment to do more and do better’.
It said: ‘We accept that we have failed victims and survivors of abuse and again apologise for the grievous failings we have made in the past.
‘Apologies are just words though, if not backed up by action.
‘We will the take the time needed to review the IICSA report thoroughly in order to make a considered and detailed response, which will inform our ongoing commitment to do more and do better.’
The archdiocese has already ‘fundamentally changed its practices and processes to ensure an open and compassionate approach to victims and survivors’, it said.
The statement added: ‘It now has more safeguarding personnel, better management and recording systems, stronger DBS/checking procedures and clear policies and practices on safeguarding referrals and agreements, to safeguard those who come in contact with the Church.’
Following the report Cardinal Vincent Nichols said: “I thank IICSA for their review of the past and in my witness statements address all the points contained in the report.
“I look forward to the next phase which I trust will help us in our present and future tasks.”
The panel found the Church had “repeatedly failed” to alert police to allegations, and said the consequences of those failings “cannot be overstated”.
While 13 people have been convicted of some of the most serious offences against children and a further three cautioned, many of the 78 individuals have died meaning the allegations cannot be fully investigated.
The report said: ‘In some cases, the lack of action by the Church meant that the abuser was free to continue to commit acts of child sexual abuse.’
Cardinal Nichols was Archbishop of Birmingham between 2000 and 2009 and was said by the inquiry to have focused too much on the reputation of the Church during his time there, instead of the welfare of children.
Inquiry chairwoman Professor Alexis Jay, said she was “truly shocked” by the abuse and hoped the findings would help to ensure no repeat of such failings.
She said: “I am truly shocked by the scale of child sexual abuse within the Archdiocese of Birmingham.
“The number of perpetrators and abused children is likely to be far higher than the figures suggest.
“Victims and survivors’ allegations were mostly ignored for years, while perpetrators avoided prosecution.
“It is clear that the Church could have stopped children being abused if it had not been so determined to protect its own reputation.
“We hope this report will help ensure that never happens again.”
Picture: The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse’s (IICSA) report on the Archdiocese of Birmingham.