November 19, 2002
Cardinal accused over child sex priests

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor

From BBC News Online
The leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales failed to act appropriately when dealing with paedophile priests in his former diocese of Arundel and Brighton, a BBC investigation has uncovered.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor is currently the subject of a police inquiry over claims he covered up the activities of paedophile priest, Father Michael Hill.

But an investigation by BBC Radio 4's Today programme revealed that some priests had been allowed to continue their pastoral duties in the same diocese despite serious allegations.

The Church has rejected calls for the Cardinal to resign, saying that the "compulsive and obsessive" nature of paedophilia was not generally understood in the 1980s, when the allegations emerged.

A spokesman pointed out that the Cardinal was responsible for launching a review by Lord Nolan to guide the Church on how to stop sexual abuse, after admitting "inadequate procedures" had led to errors in the past.

Two years ago, the BBC revealed that, as Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, the Cardinal had allowed Hill to continue working even though he knew he was a paedophile.

New sentence

Documents showed that in 1981, Hill was sent to a therapeutic centre following concerns over his sexual behaviour.

In letters seen by reporters, the Cardinal describes the matter as "very serious" and questions whether Hill should have pastoral care of a parish.

But a few weeks later Hill was allowed to conduct a baptism at a family retreat for disabled children.

Witnesses told the BBC the Cardinal had attended the baptism and was seen with Hill.

Hill's victims say the Cardinal's actions condemned them to years of abuse.

Hill, 68, was jailed for five years in 1997 for a string of sex offences against boys before being freed on parole in 2000.

He is due to be sentenced on Thursday after pleading guilty to six further charges of indecent assault on three boys aged 10 to 14 carried out between 1969 and 1987 - the same period covered by the previous court case.

The Today programme's latest investigation received allegations against a number of priests in the Arundel and Brighton diocese.

Reporters investigated four and found three had continued in their pastoral duties despite serious allegations.

The fourth, Father Alan Love, admitted indecently assaulting two boys when he was a priest in Glasgow and moved to Arundel and Brighton.

Resignation calls

The victims of alleged abuse, and their families, concede that the Church authorities appeared to follow the letter of the new guidelines, but not the spirit.

They say the police were informed, as recommended, but despite serious concerns the priests were allowed to continue working.

A relation of one of the alleged victims said: "There is no escaping the underlying impression of a Church exercising damage limitation policies."

Another said the Cardinal should admit what happened while he was in charge and show his integrity by offering his resignation.

But Archbishop Peter Smith, chairman of the department of Christian responsibility and citizenship of the Catholic Bishops' Council, said Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor had shown courage and leadership by ordering the Nolan review.

He said the Cardinal had publicly acknowledged two-and-a-half years ago that he was full of regret for what had happened.

"Had he known at the time, what he knew then, had he had that experience, he would have acted differently."


The archbishop said paedophilia was not widely understood in the 1980s, even by the police, social workers and psychologists.

"What we have learned since is that it is a very compulsive, obsessive disease, some would say... and that a paedophile is always a paedophile, a little bit like an alcoholic.

"We didn't know that then, very few people knew that then.

"But there has been a lot of research on the subject subsequently and that is precisely why the Cardinal took the initiative to ask for the review - a thing unheard of in the Church before that."

Posted by paul at November 19, 2002 01:43 PM
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