11 December 2019, The Tablet

Abuse, safeguarding and the survivors’ stories

Abuse, safeguarding and the survivors’ stories

Professor Alexis Jay chairs the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse


If the Church is to become a safe place for children and vulnerable adults, those who have suffered abuse must be listened to. Three of the victims of abuse by Catholic priests who gave evidence to the IICSA hearings tell their stories to The Tablet

Nolan and Cumberlege. These two names were repeated day after day, by witness after witness, at the various hearings in the inquiry into the extent of failures to protect children from sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales: one of the 15 investigations into a broad range of institutions being conducted by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). They are shorthand for the two inquiries – the first chaired by Lord Nolan in 2001 and the second by Baroness Cumberlege in 2007 – held by the Catholic Church into clerical sexual abuse, whose recommendations have set the template for safeguarding in the Catholic Church for nearly 20 years.

The actual titles of their reports have mostly now been forgotten, but at the time they ­suggested immense confidence that child protection would be transformed. Nolan’s was “A Programme for Action”; Cumberlege’s was “Safeguarding with Confidence: keeping children and vulnerable adults safe”. Their recommendations – accepted in full by the bishops’ conference – were designed to ensure that those who had suffered abuse by predatory paedophile priests would be helped to deal with their trauma: that the Church would promptly cooperate with police and local social services when there was a disclosure, so that they would take the lead on assessing the situation, and that children in future would be protected.

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