By Lisa Zengarini
The recent Report from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) and a new Independent Review of Safeguarding Structures and Arrangements in the Catholic Church in England and Wales, known as the “Elliot Report”, were the main items discussed by the Bishops of England and Wales during their Plenary Assembly that met from November 16-20.
The IICSA Report was published by the British Government on November 10. It examines the extent of institutional failings by the Catholic Church in England and Wales to protect children from sexual abuse over the past 50 years and the Church’s current safeguarding regime, drawing from the victims’ accounts.
During their Plenary session, the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) confirmed it had accepted its seven recommendations to improve the Church's response to abuse. The CBCEW also accepted the final proposals and recommendations of the “Elliot Report”, an independent review they commissioned in order to shape the safeguarding. The review was carried out by Mr Ian Elliott, an experienced safeguarding professional who has worked across the world in this area.
One of his key proposals of this second Report, which was issued on November 20, is the creation of a national body with powers of effective audit and oversight of safeguarding in both Dioceses and Religious Orders. Mr Elliot also suggested the creation of an independent tribunal dealing with the canonical issues related to abuse, a closer cooperation with the survivors and the creation of a second authority for the prevention of abuses in Religious Orders.
Gratitude towards survivors
In their final statemement, the Bishops of England and Wales, once again, expressed their “sorrow and contrition” for the abuse inflicted on children in the Catholic Church and committed “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”, they said.
According to the Bishops, the new recommendations are a further step towards the goal “to be a Church in which every child and vulnerable person is not only safe but nurtured into human flourishing”. They assured that the work of implementation will begin immediately and will be carried out in close cooperation with the Religious Orders.
Noting that the “Elliott Report” builds on all that has been achieved in the Church safeguarding ministry in the past 20 years, achievements also recognised in the IICSA Report, the Bishops acknowledged “without hesitation”, their failings, mistakes, and lack of adequate cooperation, expressing “deep sorrow” and asking “forgiveness, especially from victims and survivors." “We affirm our resolve to effect the next step in our work of safeguarding and care for survivors”, the statement concludes.
Apologies from Cardinal Nichols
In a second statement, the president of the CBCEW Cardinal Vincent Nichols apologized on his part for letting people down “in many ways, in different times, in different places, for different reasons”, describing abuse in the Church as “a terrible wickedness”.
The Elliot Review” is the third independent enquiry commissioned by the CBCEW on Church Safeguarding Structures against abuse, after the “Nolan Report” del 2001 e la “Cumberlege Review” del 2007.