Survivors of clerical sexual abuse have expressed their frustration at the refusal of the papal nuncio to the UK to meet them to discuss their concerns.
Several letters requesting a meeting with Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti have been sent by 18 survivors. They joined forces to speak out following publication by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) in November. The report highlights failures of the Catholic Church to deal with abuse by priests and singled out Cardinal Vincent Nichols for criticism over his response to victims.
In their letter, the survivors wrote: “We have fought for years to have our voice heard by the Church – more often than not, that voice has been dismissed, ignored or treated with contempt. We write to you with the hope that our voice will be heard now.”
They urged the nuncio to raise their concerns with Pope Francis and to meet them to discuss his response. But the nuncio’s office wrote back on his behalf, declining to meet the survivors, citing lockdown restrictions. The restrictions did not, however, stop Archbishop Gugerotti from flying to Minsk around the same time as the letter, acting as special envoy of the Pope to meet the president of Belarus.
The survivors wrote again requesting a virtual meeting, but in January the nuncio declined, saying: “On such important and personal subjects I can accept only personal meetings.” After a final exchange, he wrote back, only agreeing to share them with “the office of His Holiness”.
One of the letter writers said: “He is using the lockdown restrictions as a way of delaying any meaningful meeting. In the meantime, Cardinal Nichols remains in post unchallenged and survivors’ voices continue to go unheard.”
Last week, one victim of a priest sentenced to serve more than a decade in jail for child sexual abuse criticised the Archdiocese of Birmingham for trying to dissuade him from reporting the assaults to police. Fr Joseph Quigley was jailed for 11 years and six months for sexually and physically abusing a young man. At one stage he locked him in the crypt of a church as a punishment for supposed wrongdoing.
Lawyer Richard Scorer has in The Tablet argued that the case for mandatory reporting of abuse is now beyond doubt.