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EDITIONS
Friday, 6 December, 2002, 11:46 GMT
Cardinal admits sex abuse 'naivety'
Cormac Murphy O'Connor
The cardinal says he made a "grave" mistake
The leader of Roman Catholics in England and Wales has said he was "naive and ignorant" when he dealt with allegations of sex abuse involving priests.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor told BBC Two's Newsnight he had made mistakes but there was no question of his resigning.


When a priest abuses it is particularly shameful

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor

But a leading campaign group for the victims of sexual abuse dismissed the apology as "too little, too late."

The Cardinal said the Church had not shown "sufficient compassion in the past for those who have been abused".

And he admitted he had not treated child abuse allegations as seriously as he should have done.

"Child abuse is a terrible thing," he said.

"The most important thing is the hurt, distress and pain of those who have been abused.

"The problem is everywhere - abuse takes place most of all in families

"But when a priest abuses it is particularly shameful."

The Archbishop of Westminster faced criticism following the conviction of Father Michael Hill for child abuse.

The cardinal made a public statement admitting that, in 1985 as Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, he had moved Hill to the chaplaincy at Gatwick airport after finding out about his paedophile activities.

No excuse

Last month Hill was jailed for five years after pleading guilty to a further string of sex offences.

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said he had made a "grave" mistake in his handling of the Hill case.


We will see that any mistake made in the past will never, never, never happen again

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor

He told the programme: "I make no excuse.

"I have apologised once. And I apologise again."

But he added the Church now understood the issue much more thoroughly and had introduced guidelines for handling allegations of abuse following recommendations by Lord Nolan.

The Nolan report - issued early last year - was commissioned by the cardinal himself.

The cardinal told Newsnight he could do more to help the Church address the issue by remaining in post than by resigning.

"My job now is to help, with my fellow bishops, implement Nolan so we have a climate for child protection in the whole in the Catholic Church in England and Wales," he said.

"We will see that any mistake made in the past will never, never, never happen again."

'Head buried'

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said as a priest and a bishop he obviously cared for priests.

"But I care for children very much," he said.

Michelle Elliott, director of child abuse charity Kidscape, said few victims would be happy with the comments.

She told BBC News Online it was impossible to believe the cardinal had been unaware of the issues surrounding child abuse all the way through the 1980s and 1990s.

Mrs Elliott said: "If that was the case then he had his head buried in the sand because there were TV programmes, radio shows and newspaper articles about it.

"There are no excuses, I am not convinced.

"This will come as too little, too late."

Mrs Elliott said the cardinal could not continue, following recent revelations.

She added: "If the Church was serious about this, they would have a clean sweep.

"But I fear that is not going to happen."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Robert Pigott
"Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor has faced intense criticism"
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor
"The most important thing is the hurt, distress and pain of those who have been abused"
Lee Moore, President of the Child Abuse Lawyers
"We need every single allegation made against priests sent to the police"
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