The bishops of England and Wales reacted with shock and shame to the Independent Safeguarding Review IICSA Report published today.
“On Tuesday 10 November, I received the IICSA Report,” said Cardinal Vincent Nichols, President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and Archbishop of Westminster, “It has brought together a picture of abuse inflicted in the Catholic Church over a period of 50 years, together with detailed accounts of that abuse. It is a terrible picture. I remain shocked and ashamed. It is a reality that hangs like a dark cloud over my heart and mind.
“I know that the publication of the Report has renewed in so many the lasting pain and wounds they carry as a result of that abuse, no matter how long ago it happened. My first thoughts were and are for them. Indeed many have written to me in these last days. To each and everyone, I express my profound sorrow and apologies.”
The Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales said in a statement issued today: “The account given in the IICSA Report of abuse known to be inflicted on children in the Catholic Church in England and Wales in the past 50 years is shocking and overwhelming. At our meeting this week, we Bishops have stood together in profound shame. We express our sorrow and contrition before God.
“We have reflected on our need to reach out afresh to those who bear the wounds of permanent damage caused by this abuse. We commit ourselves to listen more intently to those who have been abused so as to learn from them and benefit from their wisdom. It is through learning from their testimony that hearts are changed.’
In October 2019, the Bishops commissioned an independent review of the Catholic Church’s Safeguarding Structures and Arrangements in England and Wales.
Ian Elliott is the Independent Chair of the Review. The final report and recommendations, therefore, are sometimes referred to as the ‘Elliott Report’. Elliott is an experienced safeguarding professional who has worked across the world in this area.
The bishops, having formerly accepted the recommendations laid out in the IICSA Report, which was published shortly before November 10, 2020, have also accepted the final proposals and recommendations of the Elliott Report in order to shape the safeguarding provision in the Catholic Church.
From the Introduction
“For the last thirty years, much work has been done in this area [safeguarding] and during our work, we were conscious of building on the firm foundations already laid. At the same time, we were always aware of those who have suffered and the desire by all concerned to prevent future hurt. The Panel kept central to their work the dignity of the person and the vocation of safeguarding as well as listening to those who had been harmed. Both shaped the work of the Review and the recommendations reached.” Ian Elliott
Executive Summary and Recommendations
Full statement by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales
Friday 20 November 2020
The account given in the IICSA Report of abuse known to be inflicted on children in the Catholic Church in England and Wales in the past 50 years is shocking and overwhelming. At our meeting this week, we Bishops have stood together in profound shame. We express our sorrow and contrition before God.
We have reflected on our need to reach out afresh to those who bear the wounds of permanent damage caused by this abuse. We commit ourselves to listen more intently to those who have been abused so as to learn from them and benefit from their wisdom. It is through learning from their testimony that hearts are changed.
We are grateful to those survivors who have come forward, not only to lay before us their experience of abuse but to help us understand the depth of their pain. We invite anyone who has experienced abuse to come forward, no matter how long ago the abuse took place. We undertake to listen carefully to them with an open heart and mind and support them on a journey of healing.
We have carefully considered the recommendations of the IICSA Report and formally accepted them. We have already begun work towards their implementation.
The IICSA’s generic hearings into the Church began last October. Around that time we commissioned an Independent Review of our Safeguarding Structures and Arrangements in the Catholic Church in England and Wales. This was carried out by Mr Ian Elliott, an experienced safeguarding professional who has worked across the world in this area.
This week, alongside the IICSA Report, we have also examined in depth the Final Report of the Elliott Review and fully accepted its recommendations. It is a searching analysis of our safeguarding work, in its weaknesses and strengths. It proposes a number of remedial and forward-looking recommendations, which accord with the IICSA Report’s own recommendations. The work of implementation will begin immediately. It will be carried out in close cooperation with the Religious Orders who play such an important part in the life of the Church.
In all our activities, our desire and resolve is to be a Church in which every child and vulnerable person is not only safe but nurtured into human flourishing. These recommendations present us with steps towards this goal. Key to them is a standards-based approach to safeguarding together with a specially commissioned national body with powers of effective audit and oversight of safeguarding in both Dioceses and Religious Orders.
Everyone in the Church will be required to work to clear, published standards of behavior and action. Most significantly, the Elliott Report has been fashioned with the participation of survivors of abuse. Their insight and wisdom have been crucial. We thank them for their great courage and generosity in working with us and we look forward to continuing this growing collaboration.
The Elliott Report builds on all that has been achieved in our safeguarding ministry in the past 20 years, achievements also recognized in the IICSA Report. Therefore we thank profoundly all who contribute to the work of safeguarding in the Church today: the thousands of Parish Safeguarding Representatives, the professionals who work in our Safeguarding Offices in every Diocese, the Safeguarding Commissions who oversee this work and give objective and professional advice to guide our decisions, the staff of the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service and those who serve on the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission. These, and many others, have contributed greatly to the current work of safeguarding in the Church.
Today, however, we acknowledge without hesitation, our failings, our mistakes, our lack of adequate cooperation. We express our deep sorrow and ask forgiveness, especially from victims and survivors. We affirm our resolve to effect the next step in our work of safeguarding and care for survivors.
In prayer we turn to Christ the Good Shepherd, the fount of healing and compassion, asking that this moment of painful truth becomes a time of grace as we strive to fulfill the ministry entrusted to us as bishops in an unshakeable unity of purpose.
Full Statement of Cardinal Vincent Nichols
On Tuesday 10 November, I received the IICSA Report. It has brought together a picture of abuse inflicted in the Catholic Church over a period of 50 years, together with detailed accounts of that abuse. It is a terrible picture. I remain shocked and ashamed. It is a reality that hangs like a dark cloud over my heart and mind.
I know that the publication of the Report has renewed in so many the lasting pain and wounds they carry as a result of that abuse, no matter how long ago it happened. My first thoughts were and are for them. Indeed many have written to me in these last days. To each and everyone, I express my profound sorrow and apologies.
Abuse is a terrible wickedness. It can destroy, or severely damage, a person’s capacity for trust and love. It can create of a life an empty shell. One letter I received from a survivor speaks eloquently of its deepest wickedness. She writes that, in the eyes of faith, these are wounds inflicted on the very Body of Jesus Christ, and inflicted by a person who claims to represent Christ and who uses faith, that most precious gift, as a means of controlling their victim. It is a very terrible evil.
I have spent many hours listening to survivors. I have sat and talked with them, shared meals with them, and wept with them. Nothing removes from my soul the horror of what has happened to them. I will continue to listen to survivors: hearing them is a humbling and learning experience for me.
I say again: I am so sorry. I say this for many bishops who have gone before me over these 50 years. Many hearing this will feel that we let you down. Yes, we did let you down in many ways, in different times, in different places, for different reasons. I apologize again. I am so sorry for all that has happened over these years.
In these last few days, I have received many letters expressing anger and disgust at what has taken place. I have also received many more letters and messages of respect, support, esteem, and encouragement for my continuing ministry. I cannot remove the damage that has been inflicted, but I can tell you that I hear clearly and feel keenly the content and impact of this Report, the messages from survivors, from the public, and from so many of the faithful. I take them all to heart.
With profound feelings of both pain and support, I came on Monday to our bishops’ meeting. I came to be with my fellow bishops, united as we are, in a common life-long commitment, to a ministry we have been given, in a love for this Church of sinners. I came to continue as their President, to guide and lead our work, to press ahead with the work we have done and are to bring into action, including and beyond the IICSA Report.
Yes, now I look to the future, to the renewal of our work of safeguarding and our response to survivors. There is new work to tell you about, new recommendations for action, shaped by the survivors who work with us and guide us, who give us the fruit of their suffering and wisdom. I thank them, as I thank everyone who works in this important ministry in our parishes and dioceses. Our commitment is strong and refreshed.
And now I hand over Archbishop Malcolm who will report to you on the work of our Bishops’ Conference. He will outline the measures on which we are fully agreed in order to revitalize our work of safeguarding, in order to correct our failings and build something better and stronger for the future. We pray that implementing these measures will help to restore the faith of our people and ensure respect and dignity for every person.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales
Archbishop of Westminster