Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor has written of his “sorrow and shame” for allowing a priest who abused children to remain in ministry when he was Bishop of Arundel and Brighton.
In an exclusive extract from his memoirs in this week’s Tablet, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor describes his profound regret for giving another chance to one of his priest, Michael Hill, in the early 1980s, despite knowing that he had twice abused young boys.
The cardinal took note that one psychiatrist had advised that Hill might be given a job where no children were involved. He sent Hill to be a chaplain at Gatwick Airport, where he abused a disabled child.
“I should have reported him to the police and the social services. I will always look back on my decision with sorrow and shame,” writes Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor.
The affair became public soon after Cardinal Cormac-O’Connor received his red hat in 2000, leading to calls for his resignation as Archbishop of Westminster. The cardinal said he decided to stay on after becoming convinced that his task was “to start to put things right”.
He set up a review of child protection in the Church in England and Wales led by the Catholic peer, Lord Nolan, that determined that the interests of the child should be paramount. The bishops accepted the committee’s recommendations in 2001.
The cardinal writes that he has met with victims in the years since and has come to understand the lasting pain and damage caused by child sexual abuse.
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Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor's memoir, An English Spring, is published by Bloomsbury.