Following a spate of media reports on child sex abuse in the Church, (see Links at the end of this page) Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor today published the following letter in The Times: 'To the welter of accusation, allegation and innuendo which today threaten to engulf a section of the media, The Times added a number of accusations of its own; notably that I turned a blind eye to the problem of paedophilia, and that victims have been paid 'hush money'. I should begin by reiterating that my decision to appoint Michael Hill to the chaplaincy at Gatwick airport after receiving conflicting psychiatric reports regarding his condition, was a mistake. I acknowledged that two years ago. I do so again. I am deeply sorry for the damage he has done, and to the extent that my decision contributed to any of that damage. To the best of my knowledge every other allegation made against a priest in my time at Arundel and Brighton was reported to or investigated by either the social services, or the police, or both. From that point decisions regarding the factual basis of those allegations were a matter for the police and the prosecuting authorities. Since the introduction of the very strict guidelines adopted by the Catholic Church in 2001, in cases where no prosecution results but allegations are regarded as well-founded, action would now be taken to remove a priest from active ministry. This was not the case in the 1980s when, despite your assertions to the contrary, appropriate measures for dealing with paedophilia had not been in any way developed, whether in civil society or the Church. Inevitably mistakes have been made in the past, but not for want of trying to take the right and best course of action. Nowhere in your report or leading article do you mention the independent review of child protection which I set up under Lord Nolan's chairmanship in summer 2000. Nor do you mention that his guidelines were accepted in full a year ago, and are now implemented, or in the process of implementation, across the whole of England and Wales. Hush money is a deliberate misnomer. Victims of abuse, whether or not their case is pursued by the police through to prosecution and whether or not they have been abused within the Church or society as a whole are, and have always been, free so seek compensation. If individuals decide to seek compensation they will instruct solicitors to act on their behalf. Compensation is agreed between solicitors acting in a professional capacity, and in accordance with agreed norms. You say: "The Roman Catholic Church has an important and ongoing role as a moral leader in our society and a profound responsibility to the faithful.." You are right. It is my responsibility to lead the Roman Catholic community in its moral and spiritual witness, and also as an evangelising community in our society, even in the hardest times. You also suggest that some may feel a sense of betrayal arising from mistakes the Church has made in the past, including in relation to paedophilia. I suggest in turn that many others feel deeply concerned by the apparently relentless attack by parts of the media on their faith, and on the Church in which they continue to believe. To read all the articles from today's Times visit: www.timesonline.co.uk/ To see the BBC's coverage visit: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2497739.stm
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