16 January 2020, The Tablet

Age is no protection against abuse

Age is no protection against abuse

Fr Hans Zollner
CNS, Paul Haring


In most of the world the Catholic Church has become a safer place for children in recent decades. But a leading academic argues that the vulnerability of adults to abuse and exploitation by priests and others in positions of power in the Church is still poorly understood and often ignored

The lifelong devastation caused to many thousands of children abused by Catholic priests and the revelation that these crimes were often covered up by Church leaders has led to a heightened awareness of the need for the proper protection of children – and to a demand that those in positions of authority should be made accountable for their actions.

But just as some observers talk of a “sea change” in attitudes to the safeguarding of children, the complex issue of the exploitation and abuse of “vulnerable” adults is coming into focus. Last year, the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission reported a 50-per-cent increase in the number of cases raised with them involving the alleged mistreatment of adult individuals in England and Wales.

A report from the University of Birmingham released this week reveals that parishioners in East Africa are often financially exploited by clergy and neighbours. In a world where, by 2050, according to the United Nations, there will be more people over 65 than under 18, how prepared is the Catholic community for this new frontier in the struggle to address abuse and exploitation?

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