UK Churches Handed ‘Devastasting’ Sex Abuse Study

Reuters, Dec. 3, 2002

LONDON – Britain’s churches were handed a report Tuesday detailing incidents of sexual abuse — some committed by clerics — which the newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury described as “devastating reading.”

The report includes graphic and moving testimony from victims of sex abuse.

It urges Britain’s churches to recognize they have sometimes failed such people and calls on them to tighten their rules on the training and screening of clergy.

“This book is not intended for easy reading in the comfort of a fireside chair,” the report begins.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, leader of the world’s 70 million Anglicans, welcomed the study as a contribution toward ensuring greater openness in Britain’s religious institutions.

“This report is sometimes devastating reading but it is timely, necessary and — if we are prepared to hear and act on some unwelcome truths — ultimately hopeful,” Williams wrote in a review of the report.

“Time For Action” was commissioned by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI), an umbrella organization of 32 churches including the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches.

It was conducted by a group of experts on sexual abuse and, while it deals mostly with the church’s response to abuse in society at large, it also tackles the more explosive issue of what to do about sex offences committed by clerics.

Churches across the world, particularly the Catholic Church, have been dogged by high-profile sex abuse cases recently.

In Britain, the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales — Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor — has been slammed for admitting he allowed a known pedophile to work as a priest in his diocese in the 1980s.

Murphy-O’Connor has acknowledged he made “a mistake” but said he was unaware at the time of how serious the case was.

But Margaret Kennedy, a Catholic victim of sexual abuse and one of the authors of “Time For Action,” said the cardinal’s explanation was not good enough.

“If this was the manager of a school or a local education authority they would simply lose their job, but for some reason these managers of the Catholic Church do not lose their jobs,” she told Reuters. “I don’t see the justice in that.”

“What they’ve all done, right across the world — Australia, America, Canada, Ireland, England — is protect the priests.

“It’s no good saying they didn’t know. Most human beings know you don’t have sex with children and that’s all you need to know.”

“Time For Action” made numerous recommendations for consideration by the ruling councils of Britain’s churches.

It urges churches to improve pastoral care for victims of sexual abuse and offers suggestions on how to rehabilitate sex offenders to ensure they do not abuse again.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday December 4, 2002.
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