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Wednesday, 27 November, 2002, 10:06 GMT
Abuse guidelines author defends church
Lord Nolan
Lord Nolan's report was commissioned by the church
Lord Nolan, who issued strict guidelines to stamp out abuse in the Catholic Church, says he believes it acted fairly in the latest case of alleged abuse.

Calls for the resignation of the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, were made on Tuesday in the wake of the claims, involving a serving priest.


We did not rule out the possibility of an offender being allowed back with children, provided that there had been a risk assessment

Lord Nolan
According to documents passed to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor allowed the priest to continue working, after he had admitted interfering with a teenage boy.

Lord Nolan said he believed the church had acted in accordance with his report and had only allowed the priest to continue after the case was investigated and a risk assessment carried out.

Earlier this week it emerged the priest was accused of sexually abusing a 17-year-old boy 16 years ago.

Allegations were taken to the cardinal in April after the alleged victim confronted the priest by e-mail.

He claimed the man had improperly interfered with him at a seminary in 1986. At the time he was 17 and his alleged abuser was 30.

The priest responded - admitting to his short-comings and begging forgiveness.

Church 'gone further'

The alleged victim declined to pursue the case and after an investigation, the priest was allowed to continue working and remains a school governor.

In a statement on Tuesday, the church said it carried out an assessment exactly in accordance with the Nolan report guidelines.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor
Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said the church had acted properly

Speaking on the Today programme on Wednesday, Lord Nolan said he was both "impressed and heartened" with the way the church was following the guidelines he issued in 2001.

And referring to this particular case he added: "We did not rule out the possibility of an offender being allowed back with children, provided that there had been a risk assessment ... if the risk assessment indicated that it would be safe to let him work with children.

"That is, as I understand it, exactly what happened in this case."

'Shocked'

Lord Nolan said the church had carried out the process in accordance with its recommendations for cases where an allegation had been made, but had not been pursued by the alleged victim.

He said he believed the cardinal, in conjunction with the church's national protection unit set up after the Nolan report had "gone further" than his recommendations.

The Nolan report - issued early last year - was commissioned by the cardinal himself, to look at the way the Church handled paedophile allegations.

Lord Nolan said he believed the church was working towards the aims of "openness and accountability", which he said were essential in stamping out abuse in the church.

On Tuesday Michelle Elliot, of leading children's charity Kidscape, said she was "absolutely shocked" by the recent case and suggested the cardinal should resign.

Criticism

She told the Today programme: "The guidelines are adequate. It doesn't sound like the Church is fully co-operating," she said.

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor had already faced criticism following the conviction of Father Michael Hill for child abuse.

The cardinal made a public statement admitting that he had given Hill a new job in the Church after finding out about his paedophile activities.

In a letter to the Times newspaper last week the cardinal responded to criticism he had turned a blind eye to allegations of child abuse.

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