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Last Updated: Saturday, 11 October, 2003, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
Archbishop admits Church errors
Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols
Rev Nichols said mistakes had been made
A leading archbishop has said the Roman Catholic Church in Britain still has a lot to learn about dealing with allegations of child sex abuse.

The Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, was responding to a survey of Catholic priests by the BBC.

More than half questioned said the Church had dealt inadequately with alleged abuse by priests.

The ICM survey was carried out as an investigation by Kenyon Confronts.

'No surprises'

The poll also suggested three-quarters of priests surveyed thought their training had not prepared them for dealing with allegations of child sex abuse.

A statement from Rev Nichols, who is also chairman of the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults (COPCA ), said the results of the poll were expected.

He said: "The correct handling of suspicions, allegations or incidences of the abuse of children always involves difficult judgements.

"Children must be protected. The accused, too, has rights which must be respected.

The Vatican
The Catholic Church has faced criticism
"I am not surprised, therefore, that there is some level of disquiet among priests.

"Everyone knows that mistakes have been made by the Catholic Church in the past. Even now we still have a lot to learn."

The archbishop said real progress was being made, but that "the pain and suffering of abuse still remain".

Rev Nichols has previously criticised sections of the BBC, accusing elements of the corporation of anti-Catholic bias.

Anonymous poll

In the survey, more than half (56%) said they trusted the Church to deal with any clergy involved and 65% said they believed the Church would safeguard children in its care.

But 58% of respondents said the Church had dealt with alleged sex abuse by priests inadequately.

Out of this fraction, only 19% said this was due to a culture of secrecy.

ICM Research sent the anonymous self-completion questionnaire to a random selection of 2,704 Catholic priests in England and Wales.

There were 486 priests, or 18%, who responded to it.

Kenyon Confronts will be broadcast on Wednesday, 15 October, 2003 at 1930 BST on BBC One.

The BBC's Richard Lister
"Some 58 per cent [of priests surveyed] said the church's responses to such claims had been inadequate"

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