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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 July 2007, 23:58 GMT 00:58 UK
Church 'better at tackling abuse'
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor welcomed the report's publication
The way sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales is tackled has improved but reforms have alienated some clergy, an inquiry has found.

The Cumberlege Commission said much had been achieved in the five years since the Nolan report told the Church to root out child abuse in its parishes.

But some clergy still felt vulnerable to false complaints, it said.

The report - welcomed by the Church - called for a new independent body to supervise child protection work.

The Church can quite rightly take pride in the progress it has made and in beginning to distance itself from negative public perceptions
Cumberlege Commission

In 2001, Lord Nolan made a series of recommendations following a string of child sex abuse scandals, and this latest report was intended to review the church's progress in implementing them.

Between 1995 and 1999, 21 Roman Catholic priests were convicted of offences against children.

The report, led by Baroness Julia Cumberlege, found of Lord Nolan's 83 recommendations, 79 had been at least partially addressed.

It said: "Five years on and the church can quite rightly take pride in the progress it has made and in beginning to distance itself from negative public perceptions."

But it warned there was a risk of reversing some of the important gains, if tensions in the church were not addressed.

The commission found:

  • 55,000 Criminal Records Bureau disclosures were completed on clergy and other staff from 2003-6

  • More than 85% of the 2,400 Catholic parishes in England and Wales had local child protection representatives in place by 2006

    However it also highlighted a number of problems:

  • A lobby of priests believe the system for dealing with allegations against them leaves them "exposed" and breaches Canon Law and natural justice

  • A view exists among some that child protection policies and procedures were "too long, over bureaucratic and impenetrable"

  • There are staff shortages at the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults (COPCA) - the unit set up by the Church to help promote child protection.

    In response, the review makes a series of recommendation including adopting one set of child protection policies across the Church.

    It also calls for bishops to take a more active role in child protection and a new independent body called the National Safeguarding Commission to give child protection work greater status and influence in the Church.

    Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the head of the Church in England and Wales, welcomed the publication of the report, which he said was "thorough, painstaking and independent".

    He said it was now important for all those in the Church to study the findings and see how recommendations could be incorporated into dioceses and parishes' structures.

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