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Tuesday, 17 April, 2001, 08:38 GMT 09:38 UK
A victim speaks out
Child
The church has been embarrassed by abuse cases
As an independent committee publishes a report on preventing sexual abuse within the Catholic Church, one victim has told the BBC the recommendations for change do not go far enough.

The 50-year-old, referred to only as Donald, was sexually abused as a boy by a priest at children's home in Birmingham. The priest was jailed and Donald is currently suing the church for compensation.

Tuesday's report puts forward 50 recommendations, including the establishment of a national body to vet candidates for the priesthood.


We complained about the abuse we suffered at the hands of the priest but we were simply punished for reporting it

Sexual abuse victim Donald
But Donald said it could have imposed a much "tougher regime" on the church.

"Up till now the Catholic Church has existed using guidelines that are of a voluntary nature and I know from my own experience, and that of many others, that they never work," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"They are never implemented because the Catholic Church is more interested in protecting itself than the victims and attempting to avoid scandal."

Donald said people did not listen when he complained about the abuse he, and others at the home, were subjected to.

"We complained at the home, myself, my brothers and many others, about the abuse we suffered at the hands of the priest but we were simply punished for reporting it."

Compensation

The report suggests that candidates for the priesthood are vetted by an organisation independent of the Catholic Church.

But Donald said he would not trust such a vetting procedure because incidents of sexual abuse are often not revealed to the police, meaning priests who have abused could still appear squeaky clean.

"What I am looking for is a contractual relationship between the church and the clergy, thus making the Catholic Church in this country liable for the activities of sexual abuse by its priests.

"As the matter stands the Catholic Church in my case, and others, simply says 'this has nothing to do with us because we don't employ our priests'.

'Publicly accountable'

"If this employment situation was sorted out and there was this contractual relationship then the church would be liable for compensation and in so doing be made publicly accountable - at the moment it is not."

The image of the priesthood has been severely dented over a number of high-profile cases of abuse.

In particular the case involving Father Michael Hill - for whose actions the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, has officially apologised.

The cardinal faced calls to resign when it emerged he had been responsible for allowing Hill to continue working as a chaplain despite warnings he would re-offend.

Between 1995 and 1999 a total of 21 Catholic priests in England and Wales were convicted of offences against children.

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